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There's no question that simultaneous belt-tightening by just about every MLB team has left a lot of free agents pacing nervously on the sidelines. There's no precedent, other than deliberate collusion, for so many excellent players being non-tendered, or traded for "nothing." This response by the vast majority of teams to the new CBA has already deflated market values, and the glut of available talent means there's no hurry to offer lucrative multi-year deals.

But there's another reason for the stagnant baseball economy. Suddenly conscious of fiscal responsibility, teams (except for the Yankees) are reluctant to add payroll until they somehow escape the burden of their existing "bad" contracts. There will be no interest in Rondell White ($5M) or Raul Mondesi ($7M) or Sterling Hitchcock ($6M) unless a large bundle of cash is included, and not much expected in return. Then there's Drew Henson, who will receive $2M in 2003, $2.2M in '04, $3.8M in '05 and $6M (!) in 2006 -- any takers?

From the MLB Contracts site, I came up with this partial list of other "untradeable" players, who are tying the hands of their current employers:

Some are superstars. The notorious quarter-billion A-Rod deal still has eight years and $200M guaranteed. Jeff Bagwell, in his twilight, is owed $10M in 2003, $13M in '04, $15M in '05, $17M in '06 and the Astros face a Hobson's Choice in 2007 of $18M or a $7M buyout.

The World Champion Angels made an excellent trade last year, getting out from under the enormous Mo Vaughn (and his contract) by taking Kevin Appier off the Mets' hands; that costs Anaheim $11M in '03 and $12M in '04, but at least Ape makes a contribution. Vaughn would have cost them $15M in each of the next two years; now he's just one of Steve Phillips' problems. The Angels also owe Aaron Sele $8M and $8.5M for the next two seasons, and are stuck with Tim Salmon at $9.5M/$9.5M/$9.75M for three more years. No wonder they're standing pat.

Good thing the Cubs think like Richard Griffin, and J.P. Ricciardi doesn't; Moises Alou gets $9.5M in both 2003 and 2004. I wonder if they'll exercise his $2 MM buyout in '05? The only Blue Jay whose contract prevents a trade is Carlos Delgado, owed $17.5M and $18.5M through 2004. At least he's productive, as are a few other guys with monster deals, which are riskier because of their length and/or health factors. For example:

Barry Bonds - four years left, $77 MM total
Manny Ramirez - $115.5M over the next six years
Jason Giambi - $9M/$10M/$11M (a relative bargain until 2006, when it jumps to $18M/$21M/$21M)
Ken Griffey - six more years @$12.5M/season
Derek Jeter - eight more years; $165 MM total
Mike Piazza - $44.5M total for the next three years
Scott Rolen - $90M over eight years; a foolish risk for a guy with a bad back
Shawn Green - $15M in 2003, $16M in '04, $16M in '05
Mike Mussina - $68M over four more years
Phil Nevin - $34M total, four more years
Todd Helton - $10.6M/$11.6M/$12.6M (similar to Giambi, but then five years @ $16.6M and a $19.1M commitment in 2011, which seems awfully far away.

I'm not saying these are bad players, or terrible contracts, just that they are immovable in the current economic climate, and their teams might regret them in the event of injuries or declining skills. A few more stars whose salaries make them unlikely to change addresses: Bernie Williams (three more years @ $12M/season,) Andruw Jones (five more years, over $60M total,) Chipper Jones ($58M guaranteed over the next four years,) Jim Edmonds ($8M/$9M/$10M/$12M through 2006) and the recent "solution" to the Mets' woes, Tom Glavine (three years totalling $35M.)

There's an entire rotation of horrible deals handed to pitchers, the likes of which may never be seen again. The "ace?" Either Kevin Brown, @ $15M/season for three more years, or Mike Hampton, who gets six more years ($11M/$12M/$12.5M/$13.5M/$14.5M/$15M) whether he gets anyone out or not. A solid #3 is Darren Dreifort, at $11M/$11M/$13M -- the Dodgers are hamstrung twice -- but you have to consider Denny Neagle ($9M/$9M/$10M) and Chan Ho Park, who will "earn" $54M by showing up for the next four years. This doesn't include untradeable arms whose deals are mercifully shorter: Andy "$11.5M" Pettitte, Andy "$8M" Ashby, Steve "$4.5M" Sparks and Kris Benson, owed $4.25M next season and $6.1M in 2004, to name a few.

Bullpen blunders include Bob Wickman, with two years left on a $15.9M, 3-year deal, and no timetable for his return, Steve Karsay ($4M/$5M/$5M through 2005) and oft-injured Matt Mantei ($6.75M in '03, plus a player option, which you can be sure he'll exercise, for $7M in 2004.) Replacement-level relievers, like the new under-a-million Blue Jays Jeff Tam and Doug Creek, can also kill your budget -- Jay Powell earns $3M each of the next two years, as does Paul Quantrill (actually $6.1M total) and Todd van Poppel "only" $2.5M in '03 but $3M in '04. The always exciting Jose Mesa will be paid $4.5M next year, and journeyman David Weathers gets $3.3M and $3.6M on his generous pay stub.

You would think a bad team like the Orioles could improve themselves in this soft free agent market, but how? They can't get rid of people they're already overpaying, like Jeff Conine ($4.25M/$4.75M the next two years,) Marty Cordova (a mere $3.1M/$3.5M) and (gulp) David Segui (two more years at $7M each!)

How about the Rangers' predicament? I've already mentioned several problems, but when you add Carl Everett ($9M), Juan Gonzalez ($12M) and Rusty Greer ($14.4M total over the next two years of surgical rehab) it's almost ridiculous. No wonder they let Pudge go for nothing!

It is possible to swap untradeables, but only for each other, as with the Cubs/Dodgers deal of Todd Hundley ($6M in '03, $6.5M in '04) for Mark Grudzielanek ($5.5M) and Eric Karros ($8M.) The three-cornered Hampton deal was made possible by the Rockies accepting Marlins millstones Charles Johnson ($7M/$9M/$9M) and Preston Wilson ($6.5M/$9M/$12M) in exchange. Colorado was willing to take one year of Matt Williams @ $10M to escape their $37.5M obligation to Larry Walker over the next three years, but the players balked; Walker admitted concern that the irresponsibly over-extended D-Backs would still be solvent by the end of his deal.

Here are some other "what were they thinking?" immovable objects:

Sean Casey - $5.8M/$6.8M/$7.8M through 2005
Roger Cedeno - $4.5M/$4.5M/$5M
Jeff Cirillo - $6.425M/$6.725M/$7.025M
Jermaine Dye - $11M/$11M
Richard Hidalgo - $8M/$12M
Bobby Higginson - $8.85M/$8.85M/$11.85M
Geoff Jenkins - $5M/$8.25M
Brian Jordan - $9M
Jason Kendall - still owed $50M for the next five seasons
Mike Lieberthal - $23.5M total, next three years, on rebuilt knees
Javy Lopez - $7M
Matt Lawton - three more years on a $27 MM deal signed last year
Dean Palmer - $6.5M
Joe Randa - $4.5M (a bargain compared to Palmer)
J.T. Snow - $6.85M
Greg Vaughn - $9.25M
Tony Womack - $6M

So in addition to the saturated free agent market, the conflict of interest known as the Montreal/San Juan Expos, and the sudden change of philosophy in most front offices, it's easy to see why there's not much player movement this winter. Thank goodness the Blue Jays anticipated this bottleneck and unloaded their worst contracts a year ago.

The Untradeables | 2 comments | Create New Account
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_R Billie - Friday, December 27 2002 @ 04:00 PM EST (#100480) #
I remember last season when many were claiming "it doesn't take a genius to trade away major leaguers for no return to clear salary" in response to many of JP's moves. According to that line of thinking, there are a lot of GMs this season who are worse than morons.
_Kent - Friday, December 27 2002 @ 05:39 PM EST (#100481) #
This AP story from the Philadelphia Inquirer supports what I'm saying. There's no competition to acquire anyone new, but a mad scramble to unload obstacles.
The Untradeables | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.