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Spring Training is one month away. Major League Baseball owners have been very slow to sign free agents leaving players wondering (or worrying) where, or if, they'll play in 2010. The state of our economy and how it's effected teams/owners bottom lines may be factoring into why so many talented players remain without jobs. Or, is it? America's favorite pasttime has never been a stranger to controversy. Owners colluding has been famously proven in years past. Is it resurfacing again? To contradict many blogs I've been reading my answer is no.
Owners are concerned as economic trends remain worrisome. Some MLB teams have clamped down. Tightening their purse strings at any cost. Big market teams in New York, Boston and LA continue to spend as they see fit. Smaller market, less competitive teams continue to struggle with dwindling gate receipts and escalating costs. There's one team with perennial lackluster attendance cellar dwellers spending more than most anticipated. Ironicly, they're based in Washington! The Washington Nationals have opened their piggy banks by signing veteran All Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez (2 years, $6M hoping he can settle down one of baseball's most pathetic and oft injured pitching staffs. Throw in Jason Marquis (2 years, $12M) plus Mike Capps (1 year, $3M) and it may appear as though the Nationals are finally trying to build a competitive team. Seattle Mariners have been busy too making blockbuster trades and key additions as they see a clear opportunity to challenge in the AL West.
I remain completely surprised so many talented players remain unsigned when a majority of teams need help. Taking a look at some of these remaing free agent notables: Jermaine Dye, Vlad Guerrero, Aubry Huff, Miguel Tejada, Jon Garland, Johnny Damon, Rick Ankiel, Orlando Hudson, Rod Barajas, Russell Branyan, Orlando Cabrera, Felipe Lopez. These names represent a few of what I call potential impact players ready to contribute. Perhaps their asking prices are too high. A few haven't even been offered deals. Most surprising to me isn't the lack of bigger named signings outside of Dye & Tejada. Not by a longshot. It's the lack of activity surrounding more versatile guys and starting pitchers. Here's the complete list of available free agents listed on ESPN.com
Time is ticking. Pre-season games begin in March. I expect there to be a flurry of activity as spring training is only weeks away. Time will tell.