â†µYou want to know how long the baseball season is? There are less than 100 days from the end of the regular season to the start of Spring Training. That's not a lot of time to cram in rest, relaxation and wheeling and dealing on the Hot Stove. â†µâ†µ
â†µWith the GM meetings in Chicago this week leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in the tropical island location of Indianapolis (I believe it's off the coast of Greece) the second week of December, the baseball off-season has officially warmed up. Get your mitts on and get ready for weeks of stove-related puns (and baseball information). â†µ
â†µFirst things first. Who is available and for how much? Elias Sports Bureau is charged with assigning all free agents a level of compensation if not re-signed by their 2009 team. Type A free agents are among the top 20 percent at their position, Type B covers the group from 21 to 40 percent and then the rest of the group goes unclassified, which means their previous team gets no compensation if they sign elsewhere. The rankings are supposedly based off a two-year level of performance, which is the only way a guy like Xavier Nady can be ranked at all. Basically if a team signs a Type-A free agent that was offered arbitration and does so before December 1, the new team loses its first-round pick, unless that pick is a top 15 selection. Type B free agents incur no penalty to sign, but both A-and-B free agents return sandwich picks to the 2009 team. â†µâ†µ
â†µNow that we have the paperwork out of the way, let's look at four storylines that should be the hottest topics in the next few weeks. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhere will Roy Halladay be pitching next year?
â†µEvery season, there is at least one front-line starter that gets shopped around during the off-season. After Toronto failed to trade Halladay at the deadline, leading to the dismissal of former GM J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays are set on dealing their ace before the season starts. Rumors are flying around, including deals with the Mets and the Phillies. Where Halladay goes will shift the balance of power in any division, and could set the market for the second biggest storyline. â†µ
â†µWhere will John Lackey land?
â†µAll signs point to New York for John Lackey, who was ostensibly the Angels ace but could be as far down as third in the Yankees rotation if he signs with the World Champs. Other teams have leaked out, including the Angels, Mets, Dodgers, Astros, Orioles, Brewers and Mariners. You can cross at least four teams off that list. Lackey will go to New York or stay in southern California. â†µ
â†µWhich corner outfielder will get the bigger deal?
â†µMLBTradeRumors.com has this whole Hot Stove rumor gathering and aggregation thing down to a science. â†µ
â†µThe site linked to an ESPN.com story by Jerry Crasnick who polled 20 MLB GMs on whom they'd rather have patrolling left field, Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. The vote was nearly split, with just 11 choosing Holliday despite his more solid numbers at the plate and in the field and being a year younger. According to the report, people thought Bay handled the pressure of Boston well, and come on, the other guy was last seen taking a baseball in the groin. â†µâ†µ
â†µAll paths lead to New York for Holliday. Too bad for him it's probably going to be the Mets. The Cardinals are interested in re-signing him, but he's a Scott Boras client, and in this market, can anyone afford a Boras client? Which leads to our last thing to watch ... â†µâ†µ
â†µCan teams afford these players?
â†µWith the economy the way it is and many teams struggling to maintain attendance figures, are we looking more and more at a have/have not situation? There's no doubt the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and a handful of other teams are basically printing money at the turnstiles. But what about teams like Oakland, Toronto and Baltimore that averaged less than 50% capacity this season? â†µ
â†µIn fact, it's not just the small-market teams that could be struggling to pony up the cash for high-priced free agents. The Mets are seemingly cash poor, especially with their involvement in the Madoff scandal. And Dodger fans are worried that the terribly public divorce between Jamie and Frank McCourt could shackle Los Angeles from making any significant moves. â†µâ†µ
â†µCould the market not show up for a lot of players who were expecting free-agent windfalls? Could the 19 Boras clients who are looking for deals be sitting out a lot longer than they ever expected? â†µâ†µ
â†µThings are just heating up. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.