Here’s a thought to help us slog through a slow Thursday morning. On MLB Trade Rumors this morning we found out that the Reds have reached their 2009 payroll limit. If they want to add players to strengthen their team, they’ll have to shed comparable dollars in the process. In other words, they’re all but done with the remaining free agent crop. Late last week, we learned that the Astros are likely out as well. The Diamondbacks appear to have severely limited funds, as a number of pitchers (Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, Randy Johnson) have rejected offers, presumably because of insufficient dollars. The Padres are looking to shed Jake Peavy’s contract, so it’s not likely they’re willing to add payroll.
This is not good news for those remaining free agents. The number of teams willing to add payroll is diminishing. WIth fewer teams involved, these free agents have far less leverage than they normally would. Because free agents are subject to market conditions, we could see a number of players taking significant pay cuts — or else sit out part or all of the 2009 season.
Most affected, of course, are the Type A guys who rejected arbitration offers. This means our best pal Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Cruz, Ben Sheets, Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez, and Oliver Perez. Not only do they face a diminished market, but they also cost a signing team a draft pick, which may lead them to shy away.
When thinking of teams which can clearly afford to add some payroll, I’ve got the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, White Sox, and Cubs. Those are the larger market teams, and all of them seem to have a bit of payroll flexibility. There have been conflicting reports on some — Jayson Stark has said in the past that the Giants can’t afford Manny. If an opportunity arose, though, I doubt any of these teams would rule themselves out.
Then we have the teams mentioned above, those who are done spending. They might ink a few players to minor league deals, but you won’t see them getting any of the higher tier free agents. These include the Reds, Blue Jays, Astros, Rays, Marlins, and Padres. Arizona appears to have some level of payroll flexibility, but not much, so we’ll keep them off this list initially. Ditto Texas, Detroit, and Kansas City. Pittsburgh probably won’t add anyone, and there have been no indicators that the Twins are willing to add payroll.
This leaves us with the majority of teams, the ones we’re not quite sure about. They might be able to add payroll, but we’re not quite sure. As mentioned above, the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Twins, Tigers, and Royals appear to have some flexibility, but probably not much. None of those teams is probably willing to add even $5 million in payroll. Though I haven’t read anything about them directly (or don’t remember having done so), the Indians, Orioles, Rockies, Mariners, and Brewers seem to fall into that category.
Who does that leave? The Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and A’s. Clearly, this is a rough estimation, but could it be that only 12 of the 30 teams are willing to add more than $5 million in additional payroll? Not good news for the remaining free agents if that’s the case. So are these players going to disperse among the available teams, or will they wait around for what they deem an acceptable offer to come around?
That’s what we’re looking for during the rest of the off-season. With a limited number of teams willing to add significant payroll, you might see a number of one-year, below-market deals signed during the first week or two of February. Let’s hope the Yankees can take advantage of that situation.