Mind Candy

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Recession spending finds baseball

Posted by mandyf on January 27, 2009

With January nearing it’s end and the winter meetings long gone this winter has been a long strange trip to say the least. Manny Ramirez can’t find a home.  Guys Like Bobby Abreu who put up solid consistent numbers are sitting in Limbo. Ken Griffey Jr., probably one of the three best players of the past twenty years is ready to hold up a sign that says “Will hit for food.”

The fact is the  economy has caught up with baseball. Owners have plenty to worry about when a team like the Yankees can’t sell suites for their brand new stadium. Even with all they hype over the Yankees big spending this year they actually cut the payroll. People don’t often notice that but it is true. In fact almost nobody is raising the payroll aside from a couple teams that were spending pocket change (by baseball standards) to start with.

Plenty of agents and a few players looking for jobs still have alluded to collusion. Everyone knows this isn’t true, but they just don’t want to come to grips with the idea that in order for them to get those big salaries they are used to people have to be able to afford to go games and buy merchandise. Right now that isn’t the case and it doesn’t look like it will change this year.

Consider Andy Pettite who said he felt insulted by being offered a $10 million dollar one year contrct based on being average the previous year. People screamed “Where is that Yankee loyalty” seemingly forgetting it was only last winter they stood behind A.P. when he was exposed for using steroids.  Nobody mentioned how odd it looked he exercised his option for that $16 million dollar deal only three days before the list of tainted/suspected to be tainted players was released.  Although he has stated he could have made more money elsewhere nobody seems to admit to offering better. In the end he gets a deal that was about half of the original offer with the remainder linked to his being healthy and performing well.

Jason Varitek balked at every offer Boston made only to find that there is no market for catchers passing their 36th birthday that hit .230. He expected something in the range of a 4 year $40 million dollar deal. He has about 5 days now to decide if his pride will allow him to sign a one year deal for about $5 million. Logic says he should, because to be honest his days as an everyday catcher are numbered. He can no longer hit enough to be of value as a DH on his off days behind the plate with David Ortiz entrenched in that slot, nor can he really swing to any other position. His value lies in handeling THAT particular pitching staff, something which makes a bidding war for his services laughable.

Manny Ramirez is one of the most feared hitters in baseball and nobody argues that. Manny is also in a world of his own and somehow he, and his agent, haven’t quite grasped that as great as he is, big multiyear deals for guys in their mid thirties just aren’t going to happen this year. Still he waits and waits and eventually he will get his deal and make plenty of money. The problem is it may not be “Manny Money” like he is accustomed to. Unlike winters past, there is plenty of talent in the outfield looking for a job.

Thus far everyone has waited to see what kind of deal Manny would get before negotiating their own deal. The problem is not all teams are waiting. Some have gone on and spent their money already making signing Manny or some of the other holdouts financially impossible. Some have decided that they will only pursue these guys if they fall to rock bottom prices. Imagine picking up a bat like Adam Dunn for $7 million or so on a one year deal? Eventually these guys will need jobs.

Then throw into the mix there are teams sitting fat with outfielders or willing to shed some payroll for prospects and go with kids in the system and the picture is even cloudier. The yankees could move Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, or Melky Cabrera who althoug underperforming is popular based on age, cost, and potential. The Royals are willing to move talent, The White Sox haven’t ruled out moving some big chips. Actually almost every GM is willing to make a deal if it cuts costs. Trades will be made and Manny, Griffey, Abreu, and Dunn may find new adresses with with a new lower paying deal.

In all actuality this was ineveitable recession or not. The revenue in the MLB has grown by leaps and bounds the past decade and player salaries have followed suit. Now however this recession has served as the impetus for owners to pull back and say no more. It isn’t a matter of holding secret meetings to drive down salaries, it is the basic principle of not spending what you don’t have.  Manny, Boras, and all you guys waiting for the dream deal to come along, WAKE UP! It isn’t going to happen this year. I just hope you all saved some of the tens of millions you’ve made to ride the storm out.

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