When Dave Dombrowski decided to trade Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson earlier this week, he didn’t do it because of the potential returns for these players. Although he received a nice haul of young players, live arms and Phil Coke, the Tigers’ GM made it clear, as Hal Bodley wrote, that money was the motivating factor.
“We are making some adjustments and it’s a business decision,” Dombrowski said this week. “Hopefully, we are bringing in people that people will fall in love with.”
By shipping out Granderson and Jackson, the Tigers are saving themselves at least $10 million in 2010 and some more as the years unfold. They have to pay Magglio Ordoñez $18 million, Dontrelle Willis $12 million and Miguel Cabrera $20 million, and to afford that, they couldn’t retain Granderson and Jackson.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the Texas Rangers engaged in some cost-cutting of their own. They shipped Kevin Millwood and his $12 million contract to the Orioles for Chris Ray and a player to be named. The Rangers, nearly bankrupt, will pay $3 million of Millwood’s salary and signed Rich Harden for $7.5 million later in the day. They gained some salary relief and traded a pitcher who averaged 180 better-than-average innings for one who averages around 108 great innings. It too was all about the money.
The other corner, we have the Yankees. They can take on Curtis Granderson a year after signing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. They can give Andy Pettitte a guaranteed $11.75 million for 2010 while still insisting that the off-season isn’t finished. They can look at Matt Holliday or they can try to retain Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. They can explore salary relief trades such as one that might involve Roy Halladay or they could speak with John Lackey’s representatives about his free agent demands.
The Yankees may have a salary ceiling this year. Rumors have put the figure at anywhere from $185 million to $200 million. But as we know, it’s a soft ceiling. When the right player is available, the Yanks with their new stadium and lucrative regional sports network find the dollars. For the World Champs who play in the nation’s largest media market, money is no issue.
In two years, this will all come to a head. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players union and the MLB owners expires on Dec. 11, 2011, a few days after the Winter Meetings in Dallas are scheduled to wrap up. Again, as the two sides prepare to negotiate, the focus will be on the Yankees and efforts to rein in their spending ways while redistributing the wealth in order to create a level playing field.
In a sense, it shouldn’t come down to that. The Yankees shouldn’t be penalized because the Tigers of the world spend $50 million combined dollars on three players. But on the other hand, baseball’s economic structure is simply broken. When the only teams that can spend real money on top players are the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, something isn’t right. How baseball tries to fix it this time around will no doubt impact the future of the team we love and follow. Stay tuned. This story of economics is just starting to develop.