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Fox Sports: Market for top free agents Price, Greinke could be slow to develop

In a hurry to find out if the St. Louis Cardinals have a serious chance to land a top free agent pitcher?

Don’t be.

According to a Fox Sports report, the market for top shelf free agent hurlers may be slow to develop.

According to J.P. Morosi:

Multiple team executives in search of pitching told me they expect at least one second- or third-tier free-agent starter — think Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake or Jeff Samardzija — to sign before David Price or Zack Greinke agree to their market-setting deals.

The thinking goes that most teams outside of the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants and Red Sox have minimal chances of landing Price, Greinke, Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann and therefore will work aggressively to sign a starter before the market moves too far upward.

It seems Morosi thinks there are four “top tier” starters and only about five teams in a position to bid on them. Of course, the challenge for general managers is to keep from bidding against themselves.

If the Cardinals are to land the jewel of the off-season, Price, it’s going to have to be because he wants to come to St. Louis more than he wants to extract every last dollar out of the market.

That’s not terribly far-fetched in that he has said he wants to pitch close to his Nashville home and he supposedly was willing to talk extension before he hit the market last year with only a couple of potential landing spots. One of them was reported to be St. Louis.

However, it will be tough for the Redbirds to land Price because the Players Association doesn’t like it when guys who are perceived as market setters take less than they could have commanded.

It’s a double-edged sword because it’s unlikely the Cardinals are going to be the biggest spender this off-season which makes it less likely to land the top guy on the market. But if Price signs with another club for $200 million, it could make the Price for a Plan A-1 like Zimmerman elevate to a level that is unacceptable.

If Morosi’s theory is correct, it could help the Cardinals if the Chicago Cubs sign a second level hurler, presumably putting them out of the market for a high-dollar free agent. Then there would be a maximum of four obvious teams bidding on four pitchers.

The Birds, if they are in on Price, will likely have to hope that Zimmerman, Cueto and Greinke sign elsewhere first and there are few teams left in the high-stakes bidding to compete with them. But it usually works the other way around with the most desired players going first.