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i_heard_mike_cameron_on | February | 2009 Articles

2009 Archives

Is 2009 a Buyer's Market in Baseball?

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I heard Mike Cameron on the radio this morning talking about packing for Spring Training.  Someone is coming for his cars tomorrow.  He was already back in the baseball mindset and ready to go. 

Then I heard Kris Benson on a little later talking about how it's the first time in years that he's been ready to start the spring with no arm tension or pain.  The problem is he doesn't know where he'll be throwing pitches next Saturday.  Like so many free agents this year, Benson has yet to find a home.  Maybe you've never heard of Kris Benson and you figure he's just some second-rate player that someone will sign to a minor league contract.  What about Orlando Hudson or Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez?  You've heard of them right?  Well, they're in the same boat as Kris Benson.  None of them know where, or if, they'll be reporting somewhere over the next couple of weeks.  Here are some of the notables still out on the free agent market:

Type A Players

  • Manny Ramirez, OF
  • Orlando Hudson, 2B
  • Adam Dunn, OF
  • Orlando Cabrera, SS
  • Bobby Abreu, OF
  • Ben Sheets, SP
  • Jason Isringhausen, CL/RP
  • Juan Cruz, RP

Type B Players

  • Randy Wolf, RP
  • Rudy Seanez, RP
  • Braden Looper, SP
  • Dennys Reyes, RP
  • Eric Gagne, CL/RP
  • Paul Byrd, SP
  • Joe Beimel, RP
  • Luis Ayala, RP

Other Notables

  • Frank Thomas, DH
  • Tom Glavine, SP
  • Ken Griffey, Jr., OF

There are dozens of other solid players still out there who don't fall into the Type A or B categories, but who in a normal year would be signed by a team in need.  This year is different though.  Just like the rest of the country, MLB teams are trying to weather the economy.  The Braves haven't signed Tom Glavine yet.  This fact probably has little to do with the fact that he's returning from injury and everything to do with a tight budget.  In the past teams would sign a veteran like Glavine, or Frank Thomas, or Ken Griffey, Jr., even if for no other reason than to have veteran leadership on the team.  This year they have to decide what is more important on their tightened budget: having veteran leadership or having younger players who can produce? 

Someone like Manny Ramirez isn't being signed because he thinks he's worth more than the Dodgers are offering (first it was two years at $45 million, last it was one year at $25 million).  Only problem is, there isn't anyone else offering anything at all.  Combine the tightened purse strings around MLB with the myriad of attitude problems Ramirez brings to the table and there simply isn't any interest. 

Then you have a pitcher like Ben Sheets, who was the starting pitcher for the NL in the All-Star Game.  Teams are scared of his injury history and are either shying away from the risk entirely or unwilling to cough up the big bucks not knowing what they'll get in return.

To make a long story short, baseball isn't immune to the surrounding economy.  Both corporate and private owners have taken hits to their wallets, not to mention that ticket and merchandise sales will likely be down this season.  For the first time in a very long time, there's a buyer's market in baseball.  Players who demand high salaries can't simply count on there being another team somewhere that will open their wallet.  Most free agents who sign a contract this year will do so at a price that is far less than they envisioned a year ago.  Some veteran players have already retired; others will follow.  Some players will be forced to sign minor league contracts and work their way back up the ladder.

Although it may not seem like a large hit to you or me (players are still signing multi-million dollar contracts), there has indeed been a hit to the baseball economy.  Perhaps baseball's economy is simply self-correcting after years of player salaries continually escalating.  What is apparent is that there are still plenty of quality free agents on the market looking for gainful employment.  The question that remains is which of them will find it?

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