Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It almost sounds like a player is “turning tricks” when they enter the world of free agency.  They go out there, hot prospects for any team, peddling for a good deal- seemingly a better one than they have back home.  

According to the Wall Street Journal article “Baseball Free Agency Dies of Neglect”, players have many opportunities throughout their career to demand more and more money as their value increases.  As young players come to the majors, they earn raises either through negotiation or arbitration. Then, after six years of service, they become eligible for one of the most potentially lucrative opportunities in sports: free agency.” 

The antithesis of free agency was the Reserve Clause- deemed as “indentured servitude” by Bruce Lowitt of the St. Petersburg Times in an article (HERE) back in October of 1999.  The Reserve Clause was “a paragraph in each player's contract that allowed a baseball team to keep him indefinitely until he was sold, traded or released. It was part of baseball's antitrust exemption and allowed the team to renew his contract the following year even if the player refused to sign,” stated the article entitled “Free-agency era opens in baseball.”  This clause was challenged in 1969 and free agency came about a few years later- quickly becoming a fantastic money opportunity for players in major league baseball, an organization with no salary cap. 
Ironically, Jim “Catfish”Hunter was signed to the Yankees back in the 70’s because of a breach in contract that led to free agency.  

But what happens when teams, even those in big markets with high revenue sharing, cannot afford their players- those entering the free agency market?  I mean, if teams like the Yankees can’t afford to deal out the dough to entice their players to stay, what about teams like the Diamondbacks and the Marlins and the Brewers?  They certainly don’t have that extra cash lying around.  
And this year, there are well over 200 free agents with some expected to sign with their teams, extending their contracts and yet others, left to shop.  The Yankees have several top names of their own… Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda, Rafael Soriano, and of course Ichiro Suzuki.  But who to keep and who to let go?  Well, if you go by post-season alone, you keep Ibanez, Ichiro and Kuroda and let the others go.  But in reality, the Yankees will most likely also hold on to Cano and Rivera- their home-grown players from the farm system.  They may keep Soriano, but there are other relief pitchers out there- 70 to be exact including Detroit’s Jose Valverde and Cincinnati’s Ryan Madson.  
 There are some catchers up for grabs too, catchers that hit with success and a heck of a lot more muscle than Russell Martin- guys like Ronny Paulino of Baltimore and hotter prospect Mike Napoli of Texas.  
 Hey folks, Orioles third-baseman Mark Reynolds is available too... just saying.  When it comes down to it, the off season is about building up the team, using the money wisely and shopping with the same keen eye as Black Friday strategists who not only need a bargain but know exactly what brand to look for and where.  And as the Yankees look to shy away from a luxury tax because of its high payroll year after year, they will continue to be money wise and I hope not dollar foolish as they work the world of free agency on the road to 28.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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