With over two months of the season still to go, the game that all sports fans love to play is alive and well.
Who are we going to sign? That Derbyshire have substantial resources available, according to a recent interview with the chairman, has sent message boards and my email account into overdrive.
I've seen lots of names suggested, some of them players whose best days are well behind them. I sincerely hope that the days of Derbyshire becoming one last pay day for the imminently retired are consigned to the past, so I see no merit in some of the names being suggested for county colours.
There's also a few being named who are under contract and therefore non-starters. Jim Allenby, a name mentioned by a few people, is under contract until 2017, Richard Pyrah at Yorkshire until 2015 and old boy Graham Wagg likewise. So too Wayne White and unless we are prepared to 'buy out' their contract (unlikely, I'd suggest) they are non-starters.Having said that, all are good players, worthy of consideration otherwise. Then there's Michael Carberry or Nick Compton as openers, but both are under contract for at least another two years.
There are others who are in the second elevens of fairly ordinary sides, something that speaks volumes for their worth in changing fortunes at Derbyshire. There is, to be fair, greater merit in signing a second team player from Yorkshire than from Leicestershire and there are a handful of decent players on the fringes of the county circuit who might possibly improve our side. The question to ask, in each case for me, is simple - will they simply help us to be more competitive, or will they genuinely make us a better side with aspirations of success?
I see no point in signing an average fringe player just because we can and nor do we want to block the paths of young bowlers with the signing of only moderate players from elsewhere. Having had a taste of first team action in recent weeks, it would appear counter-productive to see Tom Taylor, Greg Cork and Ben Cotton all back in regular second team duty next summer - at least unless we sign someone special.
I've seen comments to the effect that we will struggle to attract the right players, but much will depend on the attitude of those players and what they want from their careers. There is much to like in the future-planning at Derbyshire and unless there were counties out there prepared to offer silly money - against which one can never legislate - we can probably match most of them this winter if the right player became available.
Like most of you, I am unaware of everyone who is out of contract this Autumn, but of those who are, there's a handful who I feel would benefit us:
Will Gidman - a very good county player and a classic late developer. Released by Durham aged 25, this summer he has nearly 700 runs at 57, as well as 38 wickets at 21. Coming to his peak as a player and a fine cricketer who Graeme Welch, a fellow Geordie, should know well.
Nathan Buck - with 39 wickets at 28, Buck carries the Leicestershire attack. So much so that he has had a few injuries, but he would be an asset to any side and, at 23, is only going to get better. Like Gidman, I suspect Welch could improve him still further. Doubtless there will be interest down at Trent Bridge too.
Josh Cobb - a mercurial player who has yet to translate his talent into weight of runs, Cobb still averages 35 in the championship this summer and is a very fine one-day player. I am concerned at a 'proper cricket' average of 25 but he would improve our one-day side considerably and has time on his side to improve. Fits the description of 'match-winner' very nicely.
Richard Jones - another seamer and no, I'm not advocating signing all of them! Jones is a fine talent but has had injury issues that now seem behind him, though he cannot force a way into Warwickshire's attack. Has been on loan at Leicestershire and would be a good signing for a Derbyshire side that only has two senior seamers without question marks on their future.
Oliver Hannon-Dalby - in interviews has spoken very highly of Graeme Welch and at 6' 8" the tall Yorkshire lad. like those named above, would improve the side. Crucially, he is another who, at 25, should only get better and needs first-class cricket.
Laurie Evans - the former Surrey man has done well at Edgbaston but has struggled a little this year. A mid-thirties career average highlights his ability but I have a feeling he may head back down south. Good in one and four-day cricket.
And one from left field...
Will Rhodes - young Yorkshire all-rounder of considerable potential who needs to be playing senior cricket sometime soon. At 19 he appears to be a fine talent, perhaps more advanced with the bat at this stage, but there is no obvious path into the Yorkshire side. I just wonder if the Yorkshire input to our coaching staff might have a role to play? A move would be cheeky, but why not?
I'm unaware of the overall contractual situation at Warwickshire, but Graeme Welch will know their players well. Likewise, we should have a good knowledge of available players in Yorkshire and I would be surprised if many of our winter targets were from the south of the country.
Well worth keeping an eye on - but then it will be a fascinating winter, as Graeme Welch gets a chance to mould his own team for the first time.
And as always, I'd welcome your thoughts.