Affeldt's affable signing sets initial tone
Often ornery free-agent frenzy led by mutually agreeable deal
The negotiations between a Major League team and a free-agent player often are stressful and rocky, but there are times when a deal makes sense for both parties.
That's why Jeremy Affeldt and his agent, Mike Moye, wasted no time in negotiating a two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants.
Affeldt became the first of the 171 players who filed for free agency to agree to a contract.
"It was a deal that came together quickly because there was a near-perfect fit for Jeremy and the Giants," said Moye, a veteran of 20-plus years in the business of representing players.
You can be assured the remainder of this free-agent signing season isn't going to go as well.
There already are troubling signs when you see a solid player like San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman firing verbal shots at the team he has represented so well over the past 16 seasons.
"I was blindsided by this, I really was," said Hoffman as he described his discussions with the Padres.
Slugger Manny Ramirez had a wonderful two-month honeymoon with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his negotiations with the team -- being handled by agent Scott Boras -- seem to leave a lot of distance between the parties.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said that his team made a near-record contract proposal to Ramirez, but Boras replied that he was waiting for "serious" offers.
Teams usually try to do their very best to diminish hurt feelings in contract negotiations, but it isn't an easy path with so many emotions involved.
Jim Hendry, general manager of the Chicago Cubs, sounded a little bit like an agent when he said of his departing free-agent closer Kerry Wood: "We felt it was time Kerry goes out and does what is best for him and his family and get a huge multiyear deal."
Wood termed the decision by the Cubs to cut him loose "bittersweet."
There is much more to come on the cases of Hoffman, Ramirez and Wood, but it is nice to see that the first deal out of the free-agent box seemed to leave everyone in a happy frame of mind.
"There were about one-third of the teams that expressed a true interest in Affeldt, but the Giants made it clear from the start that they were very serious and wanted to get a deal done," Moye said.
Moye said he and Affeldt had established a target area of what they felt would be fair, and the process moved quickly, with the left-handed reliever signing a two-year deal for $8 million.
With a shortage of left-handed relief pitchers on the free-agent market, one might wonder why Moye and Affeldt settled for a two-year deal.
"We preferred a two-year deal because we think Jeremy will continue to improve over the next two years and will be given more opportunities to pitch in the late part of games," Moye said. "And he will be only 31 at the end of the contract. In addition, we think and hope the economy will be better in two years and it will be a better time for players."
As a former general manager of the Dodgers, I've known and dealt with Moye over the years, and it was refreshing to hear a player's agent mention that the economy is a factor in negotiations.
From the Giants' standpoint, manager Bruce Bochy was delighted with the new addition to his pitching staff.
"I'm thrilled to have Jeremy," Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's without question going to make our bullpen that much stronger with his experience and his arm. I've seen him from the other side, and I never liked him coming in with his power arm."
The market for left-handed relief pitchers who work in setup roles now appears to be established for this year, with Affeldt's contract and the New York Yankees re-signing Damaso Marte to a three-year deal for $12 million.
There are larger questions in this market remaining to be answered, of course.
The Yankees have reportedly offered left-handed starter CC Sabathia $140 million for six seasons.
You could make a strong case that this should be an easy call, but, as we have seen, decisions never seem to be easy for players or teams in the world of free agency.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book -- "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue" -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.