|The Real Off-Season Has Offically Started|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on November 14, 2008
On 12:01 AM Friday, November 14 the real offseason began.Â Sure there were a handful of trades and changes, but aside from Matt Holliday, none of the names being swapped were really all that notable.Â But now the free agent merry go round is in play and that changes everything.
For many fans this is hibernation time, after all there are another 3 months until Spring Training begins and many believe that the off-season just isnâ€™t all that interesting.Â Others would say this is the dark time for baseball, the part of the year that is all about greed and big dollars, the part of the sport that has ruined, or at least tainted baseball.Â And while those folks may have a good argument itâ€™s also one of the most interesting times for the real fans of the game.
While the summer is devoted to playing the game of baseball, the winter is all about the business of it, so if you are not paying attention to the maneuvering, planning and free agent hunting you are missing out on a spectacle that no other sport even comes close to.Â Â With no salary cap baseball is the equivalent of the Wild West - especially in this troubled economic time when small market teams have to be thinking more about shedding salary than adding it, which should make this off-season a particularly interesting one.
Usually top talent ends up playing for big market teams - after all those are the teams that can afford to pay obscene sums for talent. Now even big market teams are feeling this crunch and are unsure what the next few years may look like, especially for teams that rely on Wall Street dollars.Â
That might account for the Yankeesâ€™ trade for Nick Swisher on Thursday - since if Mark Texiera proves to have too high a price tag, Swisher would be a solid defensive option with power at first base.Â It might also account for the Cubs letting the oft injured, but highly talented Kerry Wood walk away.
But while a sense of fiscal responsibility may come to some teams, at least in some instances, that wonâ€™t stop the big name free agents from heading to places like Boston, New York, Chicago and LA.Â Â Thatâ€™s just a fact of the game today but hardly a cause for despair since plenty of salary doesnâ€™t automatically translate into success (As the 2008 Tigers, Mets, and Yankees all proved).Â Â In fact many teams who have spent lavishly on free agents have failed to reach the playoffs while recent years have given us teams like the Rays, Astros, Twins, Diamondbacks and Rockies to root for.
So while money is a part of the equation, it isnâ€™t the only part.Â There are plenty of smart baseball people out there planning just what your team will look like next year and how much meaningful baseball the hometown favorites are apt to play.Â Free agency is a part of that and now that teams can negotiate with them you can expect the hot stove to really heat up.Â Itâ€™s a fascinating time to be a fan so you might want to keep those eyes open and watch how teams jockey for position for 2009.