- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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.
• 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
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.
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.
• The Red Sox need to toughen up under Bobby Valentine, writes Nick Cafardo.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that while there is no set salary floor in the labor agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association have a figure in mind that they would like teams to spend. The A's are dangerously close to not meeting the number.