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Insider

MLB's invisible salary-floor line

1/4/2012
Re-signing Coco Crisp could help the Oakland A's meet MLB's spending threshold and avoid penalty. Kelley L Cox/US Presswire

There is no hard salary floor established in the labor agreement, no specific minimum dollar amount that teams are required to spend. But there is an understanding between Major League Baseball and the players' association that the 30 teams will at least participate in the process and won't consistently work to field a bunch of minimum-wage players.

The Oakland Athletics signed Coco Crisp for $14 million during the next two seasons, and that may help the Athletics avoid getting slapped on the wrist by MLB and the union, which rendered that punishment a few years ago to the Florida Marlins.

The Athletics' strategy this winter is transparent: Because the team doesn't believe it can compete with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, given the current circumstances, Oakland decided to invest its assets to fight another day. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were swapped for prospects who may blossom in 2015 or 2016, by which time the Athletics hope to inhabit a new ballpark in San Jose.

The Athletics opened 2011 with a payroll of about $67 million, but through the free-agent departures of players like Josh Willingham and the trades of players like Mark Ellis, Oakland has dramatically slashed its payroll.

Kurt Suzuki earns $5 million this season, as part of his deal that runs through 2013, and Brett Anderson will make $3 million this year. Brian Fuentes is set to make $5 million in the upcoming season, Grant Balfour will earn $4 million, Daric Barton will make $1.1 million, Adam Rosales will make $600,000 and Dallas Braden negotiated a $3.35 million deal. That's about $22 million in payroll obligations to go along with the cost of Oakland's arbitration-eligible players like Brandon McCarthy.

With the signing of Crisp, Oakland will have at least $30 million in payroll obligations, and with other moves, the Athletics figure to move closer to $40 million -- which, some executives believe, is the unofficial budget floor that MLB and the union would like to see from its teams.

Billy Beane isn't to blame for the sad state of the Athletics, writes Bruce Jenkins. Within this piece, he writes Oakland's payroll will be around $55 million. Other Oakland players are glad to have Crisp back, as Susan Slusser writes.

Notables

• The Washington Nationals have met with Prince Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, writes Bill Ladson.

The Seattle Mariners are in a holding pattern as they wait for Fielder to make his decision, writes Geoff Baker.

• The Houston Astros feel like they made a ground-breaking hire: a director of decision sciences.

• Earlier in this offseason, some executives say, the perceived asking price for Edwin Jackson was in the range of the John Lackey and A.J. Burnett deals -- in the $80 million range. This has since come down, they say.

Running to catch an early flight this morning, so we'll hit the links.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Los Angeles Dodgers' bid deadline has been backed up.

2. The Minnesota Twins have invited a whole lot of folks to spring training.

3. Carlos Silva is among those going to spring training with the Boston Red Sox.

4. Dan Connelly examines the Baltimore Orioles' dilemma with marketing Adam Jones.

Here's the bottom line: Unless his OPS and offensive production changes dramatically, Jones' value in the trade market will go down markedly every year before he becomes eligible for free agency. He is a respected talent, but rival scouts do have questions about his approach at the plate. If he were to have a breakout year in 2012, the Orioles could get the impact-type of pitcher for him that they seek.

Jones: OBP/BB/K

2009: .335/36/93

2010: .325/23/119

2011: .319/29/113

5. A young Colorado Rockies infielder is eager for his shot at the second-base job, writes Troy Renck.

6. The New York Yankees are setting their sights on the free-agent class of next fall, writes Tyler Kepner.

They're hanging onto the resources until they can go after the right pitcher -- a strategy that worked in the year they landed CC Sabathia, and one that didn't pay off in the year that Cliff Lee went into free agency.

7. Money matters to the Red Sox, reports the Associated Press.

8. The Philadelphia Phillies are content with what they have, writes Jim Salisbury.

9. The New York Mets signed a shortstop with a PED past, writes Andy Martino.

10. The Miami Marlins re-signed Greg Dobbs.

11. Yu Darvish is on a tour of Texas; no deal has been reached. It'd be a shocker if he fails to sign.

12. The Tampa Bay Rays are close to a deal with Fernando Rodney.

Other stuff

• The Red Sox need to toughen up under Bobby Valentine, writes Nick Cafardo.

• Jason Beck has some key questions about the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

Aubrey Huff has stepped up this winter and gotten in better shape, as Henry Schulman writes.

And today will be better than yesterday.