I hate to use the tired musical chairs analogy, but when the music stops several teams are going to be left standing without a decent shortstop. In an annually thin market, high demand resulted in massive contracts for very average shortstops last year (Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera).
Baseball teams seem to have short memories, and I expect the few available quality shortstops to receive big bucks once again. There are exactly two players who have a good chance of adding something positive to their new team's offense.
Rafael Furcal is on everyone's short list. He's handy with the glove, much more so than the widely acclaimed Edgar Renteria. Furcal even outplayed Derek Jeter defensively this year. Furcal put up an OK on-base percentage in 2005 with a .348 mark. He set a career high in steals (what a coincidence!) and still has 15-20 HR power.
Furcal should easily match Renteria's four-year, $40 million contract. It wouldn't be surprising to see him get $11-12 million annually. As I speculated in August, the Diamondbacks and Cubs seem to be the most likely suitors. A club looking for a second baseman could enter the fray if Furcal is willing to slide over.
The loser of the Furcal derby will probably sign Nomar Garciaparra. I think Nomar's strong .878 OPS after his return from his injury could buy him a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $15-18 million. Besides the aforementioned teams, Nomar could wind up with the Dodgers as a stopgap for Joel Guzman. It could still be a two-year deal since Garciaparra has shown a willingness to play third base.
After that, the options get ugly quickly. Rich Aurilia wasn't horrible this year, and he once hit 37 homers. Of course, that was a long time ago, but it's a nice memory.
Neifi Perez can't get on base to save his life and he may have cost Derrek Lee the MVP. But he's handy with the glove, comes cheap, and can play second base if needed. He could end up with Florida in 2006.
For the full baseball free agent scoop, check out my newly created Top 50 Baseball Free Agents 2006 column over at The Roto Authority.