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MLB Free Agent Contracts Have Gotten Completely Out of Hand

It almost feels like Christmas in December. It’s baseball’s annual right of passage, winter free agent signings that net sums of money so ghastly even hedge fund managers are blushing. At this rate, the good folks at Major League Baseball may have to change the name to World $eries. The holidays are upon us, but don’t be confused. That slightly rotund fellow wearing red ain’t Santy Claus, it’s Lance Berkman, who last season ho-ho-hummed his way to a .248 batting average yet still Madoff with eight million dollars from the Cardinals. Nope, there’s no jolly old Saint Nick Punto or Johnson (they haven’t been signed yet).

What’s a Jayson worth you ask? Well, aside from the gross misspelling (someone should let him know already), how about a tidy $126 million over seven years. Forget a spruce, the Nats’ new addition may now hang his ornaments on a sequoia. I thought the folks in Washington DC were trying to rein in wasteful spending. He’d better do well in the nation’s capital or else someone in the Nationals’ front office made a huge Boehner. Ostensibly, there were no three wise men behind that deal.

Each year, baseball’s general managers descend on Florida like so many aging retirees who sport various shades of vibrantly-colored plaid pants. Both come in search of early bird specials. The only difference is that Dave Dombrowski is more likely to splurge on an overcooked piece of meat than, say, Uncle Mort. One can only imagine the reaction of Joaquin Benoit, a 33-year-old right-hander signed by the Tigers for $16.5 million despite the fact he has a career ERA approaching the Michigan state sales tax and a less-than-stellar 31-28 career record. He may be dashing through the snow in the Motor City, but can probably now afford more than one horse to pull that open sleigh (though convertibles are not really trendy in the D in the middle of winter).

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NL Playoff Preview and Players to Watch

Also check out Alan Hull’s AL Playoff Preview

As the season wraps up and the National League contenders begin to separate themselves from one another, here is a look at some key players to watch down the stretch and through October.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Derrek Lee: There is no better way to add zeroes to the back of your next contract than to perform in the post-season when the stakes are the highest and all of baseball is watching. Lee will be looking to sign one last lucrative contract after this season. He had an opportunity to reinvent himself upon being traded to Atlanta, with the hopes he would replace some of the production lost when Chipper Jones went down. Lee responded by hitting a decent .289/.375/.433 since the trade. He will get another chance to start over in October and a few big hits will go a long way for his financial future.

Tommy Hanson: Tim Hudson has had a big season for the Braves, but has faded a bit down the stretch. Hanson, however, is the Braves most talented pitcher and has flown under the radar due to a mediocre win-loss record. This post-season may be a coming-out party for the 23-year-old future ace.

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