More teams out of the running or basically out of the running - Florida, New York Yankees, and Seattle. The Orioles are the only team with an offer out but don't seem to be getting anywhere in the negotiations. What are Vlad's agents doing, it looks like they are going to face the same situation as I-Rod last year and be forced to sign for less dollars. Or maybe that's what they actually want...
Again news dominated more by teams falling of the Vlad-stakes. Florida and Seattle signed a number of players before the arbitration tender deadline and looks to have spent the money they could have allocated to Vlad, though Florida could find "special" money again. The Yankees appear close to falling out due to the number of outfielders they would have on their roster if they do sign Lofton as has been expected. The Orioles are still the only team to have an offer out to Vlad right now.
As I had noted in previous articles, what are Vlad's agents doing? To get top dollar for Vlad, you don't set the bar high and watch potential bidders fall by the wayside. You start early and let all the teams know that you want to sign by the Winter Meetings, so get your bids in. But teams each week are falling out of the Vlad-stakes having either spent their payroll or filled their outfield positions.
By waiting, Vlad's agents could be facing what I-Rod faced last off-season, where finally there was no team with the money and interest to sign I-Rod. I-Rod lucked out that Florida was willing to sign him to a deep deferred contract to sign him for $10M with "special" money that they found just to sign him. Thus Vlad might have to sign a discounted/deferred/backloaded/performance optioned contract in order to get a long-term contract, if that is the security he is looking for, or sign for a one year deep deferred contract like I-Rod.
And the team he will sign for could be any team willing to pony up the "special" money and not be any of the rumored teams or teams who currently have the payroll to sign Vlad. His agents' strategy is very confusing, though interesting, and we probably won't find out the true nature of this strategy until Vlad is signed, sealed, and delivered.
Perhaps they are doing this to enable Vlad to sign with the team he would like to sign with but which does not currently have the payroll to sign him. Thus, by putting Vlad into an I-Rod situation, which cannot be faulted as they were only trying to get him the top dollar and terms that a player of his stature deserves, the agents could then be "forced" to have him sign for less money than "expected" BUT with the team he really wants to be with, whichever that team may be. And the player's union won't then stop Vlad from signing a contract for less money than what a player of Vlad's stature "should" be getting because he was "forced" into it. Which would allow Vlad to sign with the team that he wants to be with but couldn't because the player's union wouldn't otherwise allow the deal, like what happened to A-Rod's deal with Boston. It's going to be interesting.
Race So Far
Baltimore - After signing Tejada and now Javy Lopez, they have done what they have said that they would do, sign two of their three targeted players. There is also talk about signing I-Rod too and having Lopez play 1B and DH, but I don't really see Javy wanting to do that. That could possibly preclude continuing negotiations with Vlad though, as they should finally start running out of payroll unless all these contracts are back loaded, but back loaded contracts, like in football, will implode the payroll budget in a future year unless there are a lot of salary leaving in the future year in terms of free agents being let go.
In addition, after non-tendering their third best pitcher last year, Jason Johnson, they have now lost their top three starters from last year - Ponson, Hentgen, and Johnson - plus their best reliever in Ligtenberg. Most teams cannot compete without a strong pitching staff and a strong bullpen and yet the Orioles have done nothing to address either thus far.
They claim to still be interested in Vlad but one can easily see that they really need to get some pitching now. There is talk about signing Ponson back, but they would still need other starters and setup men to be able to compete because the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays have all arguably improved their starting and bullpen staffs. So they lead the pack solely because they are the only team with an offer out to Vlad but who knows how long that offer will stay on the table given their pitching situation and possibly catching situation.
Middle of the Pack:
Los Angeles Dodgers - The apparently dead A-Rod-Manny deal has affected the Dodgers plans because they were suppose to get Garciaparra out of that deal. And the Ordonez trade appears out due to the White Sox wanting too much. They should be able to still afford Vlad since they saved all that money in the Kevin Brown trade, but, according to local newspapers, are currently unwilling to offer Vlad more than a five-year contract - his agents have reportedly been asking for eight years. Right now, they appear to be more interested in either the Astro's Richard Hildalgo or Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff in trade plus mulling signing Rich Aurilia or I-Rod.
NY Mets - The Mets, according to local newspapers, don't think Vlad is a priority to get because they have so many needs right now that they cannot see paying so much money for one player. But, as long as they got the money and RF open, there's still a chance that they could pursue Vlad if their other options fall by the wayside.
Bringin up the Rear:
Detroit - Has less money now but should still have enough budget to be able to afford to sign Vlad but there has been no rumblings about this possibility.
Florida - A busy weekend of signing players - Armando Benitez, A.J. Burnett, and Alex Gonzalez has tapped their $60M budget target. Perhaps they may pull out "special" money again, like they did last year for I-Rod, and get Vlad, but more likely they will be looking around for a trade for a starting catcher. In any case, they appear to be out of the race for Vlad, having run out of their budget and having said that they will not be pursuing any more big free agents since they are at their budget target, but they could always move Conine to firstbase if they change their mind and try to sign Vlad with "special" money.
NY Yankees - As long as they have money, they have a chance. But with a crowded outfield, especially if Lofton is signed as rumored, they should be close to being out of the race.
Out of the Race:
Seattle - Recently re-signed Ichiro and Garcia plus offered some players arbitration so there is probably no budget left to spend on a big free agent like Vlad. In any case, Ichiro plays Vlad's position RF, they re-signed Randy Winn in CF, had signed Raul Ibanez to play LF, and re-signed Edgar Martinez to play DH so Seattle would not have anywhere to play unless they shelve one of the expensive free agents that they just signed this off-season, which is of course, unlikely and wouldn't make any sense.
Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at BiasedGiantsFanatic@nospam.yahoo.com (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.
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