Prices are dropping, but will it matter?

Buster Olney weighs in on how the economy is impacting team spending:

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.


  1. Barry

    December 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Surely the Tigers can pick up one of these guys. I like Fuentes the best. They already have power arms like Cruz. Tigers need to keep trading due to their surplus building up at AAA.

  2. Ryan

    December 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    So the economy is tough, prices are dropping, and the Yankees now have a starting nine making over $140 million next year. The Tigers really need to snap up somebody before the Yankees decide they need to sign all of these guys to shore up their bullpen. As soon as the Yankees get involved, Fuentes, Hoffman, and probably Lyon instantly go out of the Tigers’ price range.

  3. Ken in Las Vegas

    December 23, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I hate the Yankees. I hope they choke on a ham panini again this year.

  4. Chris in Dallas

    December 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I also hate the Yankees. They just nabbed Teixeira.

  5. Smoking Loon

    December 24, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Yankees, Schmankees. Maybe they just bought the AL East crown, who knows. They’ll still have to face the Tigers and certain elimination, eventually. They can spend, but they can’t hide.

  6. Vince in MN

    December 24, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    With that offense they are going to score 1000 runs and are a shoo-in for 2009 World Champs. Wait a minute, where have I heard that before?

  7. Vince in MN

    December 24, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Lee Panas over at Detroit Tiger Tales has come up with a new sabermetric measurement for pitchers which he calls Run Prevention Event. He analyzes the current Tiger starters including Edwin Jackson. Check it out:

  8. Coleman

    December 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    “Run Prevention Event” Are we sure this isn’t satire? And are there really no sabermetrics that include the word “escutcheon?”

  9. Coleman

    December 24, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Smoking Loon: “Yankees, Schmankees. Maybe they just bought the AL East crown, who knows”. Even if they did buy the AL East crown, recent history says that gives them a 12.5% chance to win the World Series (WS 2001-08: AL East winner-1 AL Central winner-1 AL West winner-0).

  10. Rick G

    December 25, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Nice article, Vince, but here’s the right link

    Interesting that Nate was the second best Tiger starter on the list. Maybe he’ll be better this year with more help in the infield? He can’t be much worse.

    Anybody get any cool Tiger stuff for Christmas? The Mrs. got me a Nike dry fit long sleeve shirt with the old English D in the front and the script “Detroit” on the half turtleneck, not bad.

  11. David

    December 25, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I duno Vince, you still have to like their moves…and they were a little different from ours a year ago – signing one top tier starter and a number 2.5 with great stuff not giving up anything but $$ which they have

    Also getting a guy in Teixeira who just looking at career averages is VERY similar to Cabrera but is a tad older and white and not fat and can field with everybody not named Albert Pujols at first. In fact the most similar batter according to baseball reference is Cabby.

    Plus Abreu, Giambi, Mussina, Pavano, Ponson, Pudge and Pettitte are coming off the books

    They also have a slew of young pitchers who they haven’t traded away

    I never heard that they will score 1000 runs, but they might prevent quite a few more than last year…which would help them get back to where they’ve been in the AL East

  12. Vince in MN

    December 25, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    David, since the Yankees have a larger GNP than most nations, I’m sure they’ll just go out and buy what they need. Even if all the salaries weren’t coming off the books, they’d still spend, spend, spend. And they do try and get the best. So, I agree, picking up Tex was a great acquisition. And they are probably not done yet – it wouldn’t surprise me if they picked up Manny for a couple of years – what’s another $50M. The way they throw the money around is just a little unseemly IMHO, but that’s just me.

    On the other hand, they are trying to create/maintain an elite product that has world wide recognition and a high reputation. In that regard it’s more than just baseball for them. And if you can outspend your competitors into oblivion while you are at it, well, why not.

  13. Vince in MN

    December 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Rick G,
    thanks for the correction on the link – not sure how I did that, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention.

  14. David

    December 25, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Yea Vince I know what you’re saying,

    my point wasn’t that though

    First of all they picked up two big guys – who will help on the defensive side of the ball


    “It may have seemed like bad timing to push New York’s offseason investment plan well past the $400 million mark, but the Yankees’ payroll actually remains on track to be lower for the 2009 season, even with Teixeira. In adding Sabathia, Burnett, Swisher and Damaso Marte, the Yankees had restored approximately $48.3 million of the $88.5 million coming off their books. ”

    With that huge amount of money coming off their payroll and a NEW stadium the should spend, and like you said – they are the Yankees and can afford to do it anyways.

    Play the hand you’re dealt.

    Still they got a lot of PITCHING which was MUCH SMARTER than what we did, AND they weren’t GIVING UP PROSPECTS FOR IT

    I never heard they were going to score 1000+runs

  15. David

    December 25, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    btw the quote is from here;c_id=nyy

    middle of the page

  16. Ryan

    December 26, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I can’t figure out what the Yankees think this team is going to look like. Assuming Teixiera is the everyday 1B, and if Posada turns out to not be a legit catcher anymore, they have Damon, Swisher, Matsui, Posada, Cabrera, Gardner, and a couple prospects to fill DH, LF, and CF. Even if the prospects stay in AAA, and Gardner returns, two of those first five guys will be on the bench every day. Add in a backup catcher, and they have one bench spot to back up 2B/SS/3B. Derek Jeter is at a point in his career where asking him to play more than 135 games is a problem (asking him to play at all is a problem, but you know what I mean). If Joba is a starter, they still have a big hole in front of Rivera. If he is a setup guy, they are depending on Hughes and Kennedy to fill two rotation spots again. Rivera is 39, and one of these years he’s going to be done. Despite all these splashy signings, if Joyce is adequate and Tampa can pick up anything for their DH spot, I think the Yankees are still behind the Rays and even with the Red Sox in the AL East.

  17. Vince in MN

    December 26, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    The Yankees aren’t done. I expect them to deal some of the excess for, if nothing else, prospects. Even if they have to eat some of the salaries, that isn’t a problem either – remember they still have something like $40M off the books from last year to spend. Need a backup catcher (or two?) – buy it. Need a spare reserve IF (or two?) – buy it. How about some relief pitching – buy it. Unlike the other 29 MLB teams, money isn’t an issue with them.

  18. Smoking Loon

    December 26, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    *And are there really no sabermetrics that include the word “escutcheon?”*

    Coleman, there are a few, such as Escutcheon-Prevention Independent Catching, Walks-Above-Slugging Team Escutcheon, and Outfield Fly Trajectory Isolated Metric Escutcheon, but they’re kind of obscure, and have been superseded of late by WTCGIAG (Why This Crappy Guy Is Actually Good).

    *The Yankees aren’t done.*

    Despite a history of shameless and bloated spending, when you leave aside the 75 World Championships (all won against National League teams, I might add), the Yankees have yet to win a World Series.

  19. Ryan

    December 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Vince, I see your point, but other than Swisher, I see all of them as having negative trade value. They could cut, but do they really want the Rays signing Matsui to DH at league minimum? Also, if they legitimately aren’t going to lay out $10 mill for Pettite, I think they’re done with big money signings for the offseason. It’s not a matter of not having the money for a backup IF, it’s a matter of roster space. No matter how much money they spend, they still only get 25 guys.
    I think money is still an issue with the Yankees. They lost about $80 mill in contracts from last year, (Giambi, Abreu, Pettite, Mussina, etc.) and were able to sign the top three FAs for less that that. They live in a different neighborhood for sure, but I don’t think they are willing to go much over $200 mill.

  20. Kathy

    December 26, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    My son bought me a Tiger hoodie and a ’09 calendar and although this isn’t Tiger related, I’m typing this from my new HP computer (whoopie!).

    I’ve never hated the Yankees until this year. It’s disgusting to see them spend so much money.

  21. Vince in MN

    December 26, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Don’t the Pirates have a well-thought of minor leaguer in their system by the name of Andy Escutcheon?

  22. Vince in MN

    December 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    My mistake, I had him confused with Andy Exesketchon, who used to catch for the Orioles back in the day. Loon remembers.

  23. Eddie

    December 26, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Andrew McCutcheon?

  24. Dave BW

    December 27, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    I don’t have a problem with the Yankees spending $420 million. I do have a problem with them spending $420 million on free agents while simultaneously taking $370 million from the city in tax-exempt bonds for the purpose of tweaking their new stadium.

  25. David

    December 27, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Whats the hate for Jeter?

    And why the Yanks?

    Plus Ryan Jeter has started 150+ games 5 years in a row let alone 130

    and if you say the Yankees put those dirty dirty RED SOX AND METS in there too, they’ve been BIG SPENDERS

    Heck so have we(just recently though)

    Plus Mariano doesn’t look too bad yet coming off a 1.40 ERA in 70IP

  26. BZ

    January 8, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Fien is aggressive and goes after hitters. He doesn’t walk anyone and will be a solid addition to the bullpen.