After having a couple slices of pizza and downing a few Amstels, I decided to see what was on ESPN this evening. And to my surprise, ESPN had a special Hot Stove show with Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, Tim Kurjian and Steve "Bum" Phillips.
The first issue they addressed was the impact of the slowing economy on player salaries. But Gammons and Kurkian talked about their discussions with a few GMs who said, that depending on ticket sales and sponsorships, they may not be able to meet payroll THIS season, and may start trading big name guys as soon as mid-May!!!
From my recollection, a few teams that appear to be having money issues, or in a rebuilding stage, this offseason are the following teams:
Astros-Ed Wade mentioned early on that he may have trouble meeting payroll this season.
Brewers-lost two stud pitchers and a closer, and only signed closer Trevor Hoffman to a very cheap deal.
Diamondbacks-laid off 31 front office employees, and did not resign Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson and Adam Dunn. In addition, they have called off contract extension talks with ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
Marlins-traded away several arbitration eligible players including Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs and Scott Olson.
Pirates-have several arbitration guys, Nate McLouth to name one, and prospects close to being ready for the big leagues including Andrew McCutchen, Bryan Morris, and Pedro Alvarez.
They mentioned that the Red Sox specifically decided not to spend too much this offseason on free agents in anticipation of adding payroll via trades during the season.
It appears the Dodgers and Mets are both in the Red Sox camp. What they didn't get this offseason, they can trade for early in 2009. Ned Colletti was very successful using this strategy in 2008, trading away prospects for Casey Blake, Manny Ramirez and Greg Maddux.
I can see the Astros offering Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt should they fall out of the race early, the Brewers dealing the oft-rumored Prince Fielder with Mat Gamel waiting for 1b to open up, the Diamondbacks dangling Brandon Webb, and the Marlins trading Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu.
These early season deals may or may not impact your fantasy/roto teams, but it is something that bears watching. You should also look to see which prospect is ready to jump up to the big leagues to take the roster spots for the players traded. Eric has written several articles on minor league prospects over the last few weeks. I recommend you re-read those articles to get an idea who you may want to target come draft day.