We’re weeks before the first free agent files, perhaps a month or so from the first free agent signing that makes us all shake our heads – where does all that money come from? – but baseball is providing evidence today that the economy of the games isn’t the economy of its fans.
Prospective owner Jim Crane, for instance, has agreed to buy the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane for $680 million.
The Houston Astros.
Now, there are stories suggesting that MLB is offering Crane as much as $50 million to accept a move from the National League to the American League – specifically, the AL West. That would give baseball 15 teams in the NL, 15 in the AL and pave the way for Commissioner Bud Selig’s newest money-making idea, a second wild card playoff team for each league.
Need more evidence? The New York Yankees say they scouted Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish last season, and it’s likely they will be among a half dozen or more teams bidding for the rights to negotiate with him should he be posted as a free agent. How many millions? With so many teams interested, his rights – not his contract, mind you, but the right to offer him a deal – might exceed $50 million.
Signing him could cost another $75 million over five years.
The Detroit Tigers want to add offense so badly they’re said to be willing to eat the $5.5 million contract for Brandon Inge next season if they can upgrade at third base. In New York, Rafael Soriano is the Yankees setup man, yet has two years left on a deal that will pay him $25 million. Thre are indications agent Scott Boras will try to set the bar at a new high this fall, asking $30 million a year for free agents Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.
Yes, Virginia, the game and the men who run it are out of touch with reality. So is the Players Association. Nothing likely to happen this fall and winter – when teams commennce the newest spending spree into free agency – is going to help baseball reconnect with fans hurting in the real economy in which they live.