For those of you trying to defend MLB's lack of a salary cap to people intent on pointing out the unleveled playing field, may I suggest showing them the recent trade deadline deals in the NBA? While a cap suggests competitive balance, in the NBA, it has caused teams to purposely get significantly worse in the short term for the small possibility (read: landing a premier free agent) of getting much better in the long term. It's a sad state of affairs when talent is willingly given up in exchange for expiring contracts.
Baseball is FAR from perfect and has its own problems with trades involving an imbalance of money as the primary cause, but the NBA is in a much worse situation in terms of teams giving up on fans that have already paid for their tickets. Somewhere between the NBA's cap and baseball's free for all exists a competitive and economic balance. When I find it, I will publish it in my baseball manifesto!
Tim Lincecum avoided a messy arbitration situation by agreeing to a 2-year deal with approximately $23 million plus incentives. The deal furthers San Francisco's chances to establish a '90s Braves-like roster deep in dominant pitching that should keep the team competitive for years. Now the Giants need to piece together an offense that can not win just in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. Recent signings (Huff, DeRosa, Molina) have helped, but a power guy in the middle of the lineup would be an immense help.
Where's Huey Lewis when you need him? The Twins went "back in time" and signed Jacque Jones to a minor league contract. Hopefully Jones learned how to hit a cutoff man during his time off. All kidding aside, Jones has always hit well and took the Wrigley Field jeers a lot more in stride than Milton Bradley and others who failed to live up to Cubs fans expectations. If he somehow became a more fundamental ballplayer while honing his skills, maybe there's a place on Minnesota's roster for him.
Pitchers and catchers will be reporting soon, but there are still a few non-pitchers and non-catchers with plenty of talent and no contract. Among the more notables are Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede, Hank Blalock, Carlos Delgado, and Russell Branyan.
Focusing on the first two on that list, Damon and Dye are separated in age by less than three months, and many forget that they played on the Royals together for four seasons. Naturally, just as both players were reaching their primes, they went elsewhere and found success (and dollars) outside of Kansas City. While a Missouri reunion would be touching, budgets will prevent that, so as good as these two have been over the years, they need to realize their ages (both are 36) are going to prevent them from getting a long contract.
Damon seems focused on wanting a 3 or 4-year deal, while Dye would prefer to go somewhere as a starting outfielder, rather than a 4th outfielder. Both players put up numbers over the past 4 years as good as anything earlier in their careers, but a late fade has owners questioning longevity.
As always, eventually the agents and owners will meet somewhere in the middle, but the more flexible the player is willing to be (incentives, position flexibility, etc.), the more likely he can go to a contender. The stubborn one may end up with the better deal but will be playing for someone like Washington or San Diego which will seem pretty old come July.
Maybe it's just my false perception, but I'm really liking these bargain deals teams are making for average talent. First it's $2 million for Randy Winn, then it's a mere $800,000 for Reed Johnson to be the fourth outfielder on the Dodgers. While you know you're never going to get 25 HR or 100 RBI out of a guy like Johnson, you can be sure of what you WILL get - average offense and solid multi-position defense. For $800,000, that's a great value. Rookies and other young players may have more upside for that price, but the unknown is a risk not necessary in taking for a fourth outfielder on a good team.
The White Sox did something similar in signing Mark Kotsay. The only problem with Chicago is that they also exercised the same strategy in signing Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel. Now they have three players with marginal upside but a good chance for average to below average production. That's great for a backup, but when you have THREE of those guys on your roster, someone is going to be playing more than necessary and suddenly than dependable average production becomes a hindrance, not an asset.