Throughout baseball, budgets are being downsized from week to week to reflect the latest read on the economy, and what you are about to see — once the smoke clears from the Sabathia and Burnett and Teixeira news conferences — is a stunning drop in salaries for the free agents, a time when solid veteran players might be fortunate to get one-year offers for $5 million to $8 million. General managers throughout the game are reporting, on background, that their payrolls are being locked down, cut down, slashed.
It’s a topic that I’ve speculated on (mostly in the video chats) as it relates to the Tigers. Before the global recession hammered the Big 3 and they had to go looking to the government for money, Dave Dombrowski said he was looking at a payroll in line with last year. But with a dip in attendance that could likely go beyond the slippage due to the team’s disappointing 2008, plus a potential loss of GM sponsorship money, the Tigers could be in a different mindset.
Did they save money on the Adam Everett, Gerald Laird, and Matt Treanor deals, or were they spending what they had to spend? Was Edwin Jackson acquired because $3 million is all they have to invest in the rotation?
With $105 million committed to 14 players, and a likely $9-10 million committed to Fernando Rodney, Marcus Thames, Gerald Laird, Edwin Jackson, and Bobby Seay, That leaves about $15-$20 million to cover Justin Verlander*, 4 guys earning the minimum, and an upgrade to the bullpen. Plus I don’t know if Renteria’s $3 million buyout counts against the total.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that as Olney points out, prices are dropping. And for those worried about the Tigers lack of moves in the bullpen, it isn’t a cause for concern yet. It’s still a buyers market with Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Brandon Lyon, and Juan Cruz available. Fuentes and Cruz are undesirable due to the cost of second round draft picks. But as a group there are 4 arms, 3 of which should be in the Tigers price range, and all of which would be an upgrade.
Now if the calendar flips to February, and the four aforementioned guys are packing bags for other destinations, then I’ll join you in being uneasy about a bullpen made up of last year’s incumbents, Casey Fien, and the draft class of 2008.