The MLB Winter Meetings are underway and it seems like I’m watching a
replay of every other year, with the top teams filling their wish lists
with stars and the bottom feeders hoping mediocre players will blossom
into something they’ll likely never be.
The World Series champion Yankees picked up All-Star centerfielder
Curtis Granderson in a three-way deal with Arizona and Detroit. While
the Tigers seemingly got a boatload in return, make no mistake,
Granderson will be the player involved that makes an immediate impact.
A speedy centerfielder who can cover all kinds of territory in the
outfield as well as hit for average, power and steal 30 bags,
Granderson will solidify the Yankees lineup and sure up an aging
The moral of this story is that the rich get richer yet again. Year
after year, the big-market teams snatch up the top players while the
mid-to-small market franchises are forced to try and turn water into
wine with average players.
I’m a Milwaukee Brewers fan and I was pleased to hear they were also
“major players” in this year’s Winter Meetings. The team raced out and
(overpaid for) grabbed left-handed pitcher Randy Wolff. The Brewers
signed Wolff to a three-year deal worth $29 million. While Milwaukee’s
need for pitching is no secret after finishing second-to-last in team
ERA last year, they were forced to set their sights on the
more-affordable and less-effective Wolff instead of going after the top
pitcher available, John Lackey. They went that route because the team knew they couldn’t
compete with the teams vying for his services. Inevitably, the Yankees
or another big-market team will sign Lackey to an outrageous contract
worth more than a $100 million and Milwaukee will be left with a
serviceable middle-rotation starter and Lackey’s new team will be left
with a difference-maker.
I understand that big-market teams make more money and thus have more
money to spend, but I would like to see one of those same teams switch
sides for a season or two and see if they can stay atop the standings
trying to convert average players into cornerstones.
Just as in life, you tend to get what you pay for. Buying quality
players is much easier when you can afford to shop at the best stores.
Finding a treasure at a rummage sale happens from time to time but
picking up a treasure while shopping at specialty with an unlimited
bankroll increases the odds of that happening dramatically.
I understand the basic economics of free agency and the differences
between small-market teams and big-market teams, but I don’t have to like it.
In much the same way I’d like big-market teams to be forced to experience
the limited payrolls that small-market teams face on a yearly basis,
I’d also like small-market teams like my Brewers to be able to see how the
other half lives. I can only imagine how easy it would be to fill a
void with deeper pockets because from where I’m sitting, the grass sure
is greener in the big cities.