The “C word”

The “C word” in baseball refers to, of course, collusion, which there are some rumblings of in this slow offseason. PeteAbe looks at the free agent team that could still be put together as we head into February:

1B: Adam Dunn
2B: Orlando Hudson
SS: Orlando Cabrera
3B: Ty Wigginton
LF: Manny Ramirez
CF: Ken Griffey Jr.
RF: Bobby Abreu
C: Pudge Rodriguez
DH: Frank Thomas

SP: Ben Sheets
SP: Oliver Perez
SP: Tom Glavine
SP: Randy Wolf
SP: Braden Looper
RP: Juan Cruz
RP: Eric Gagne

Also: Andruw Jones, Joe Crede, Jim Edmonds, Cliff Floyd, Garret Anderson, Nomar Garciaparra, Rich Aurilia, Pedro Martinez, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado.

That team could win a couple of divisions in baseball. Any team with Dunn-Manny-Abreu at the heart of its order can compete. (Random aside – wouldn’t it make some sense for the Marlins to jump in and try to win this year? Their pattern has been that every few seasons (1997, 2003) they bring their payroll up to the middle of the pack and go for it. Well, a lot of their talent is starting to get close to arbitration. In theory it might make the most sense for them to wait one more year for their pitching to develop further, but with all these players available at such a low cost… well, they could probably grab a starter or 2 and a couple veteran hitters without breaking the bank and really turn the NL East into a dogfight. Just a thought.)

So what’s going on this offseason? Is it the economy? Collusion? I think it’s a lot of factors:

– Youth is the “hot” commodity right now. Every season there is something; in the past, it’s been veterans, pitching, OBP, bullpen, etc. This thing is generally dictated by the team(s) that had success the previous season (The White Sox with pitching, the A’s with OBP, etc). Well, after Tampa Bay showed the world what building through young, inexpensive players can accomplish, those are the players that are coveted. Why pay a veteran free agent a lot of money when you could give that position to a young, cheap player, who might perform just as well?

– The economy is awful. This isn’t nearly as big of a deal as some teams would probably like you to believe, but bottom line is no one really wants to add payroll right now. Even the Yankees, believe it or not.

– The real C word here might be professional congeniality. In general, a GM should want to sign players for as little as possible while at the same time, driving up the market so that other GMs have to spend as much as possible. Well this isn’t really quite the case. You see many GMs who are quick to publicly deny interest in a player. Why would they do such a thing? Well, for example, the LAofA Angels have no real reason to drive up the cost of a player the Chicago Cubs are trying to sign. Why? Well when the Angels try to sign someone, they don’t want the Cubs doing the same thing.

So if you notice, the only real times GMs seem to play that sort of game is with rivals. The Giants are hanging around in the Manny Ramirez negotiations because they don’t want the Dodgers getting a good deal. The Red Sox talked contract with C.C. Sabathia because they wanted to make sure the Yankees paid top dollar. But in general, GMs have learned that for the most part, it behooves them to play nice. The Yankees and Red Sox will never make a trade with each other, so it doesn’t matter, but otherwise, you want to be on good terms with as many teams as possible so you have plenty of teams to do business with.

So is there collusion going on here? Not really. It’s just business as usual as far as baseball is concerned.

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