With the Hot Stove League past its midpoint, and with less than six weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the words of A's general manager Billy Beane are ringing true less than a week after we've finished ringing in 2009.
Sitting in his suite during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last month, Beane, who got the Hot Stove bubbling with a November trade that brought All-Star slugger Matt Holliday to Oakland, was asked for a prediction on how the market for talent would shake out.
"Given the economic climate, I think it's fairly obvious that it'll be slow-developing," Beane offered. "Baseball itself is doing well financially, but to think that what's going on in our country isn't going to affect every business arena is ludicrous."
A day later, of course, the Yankees went all Spinal Tap and cranked up the heat on their Hot Stove burners to 11 by signing CC Sabathia to the largest deal in history for a pitcher. Within the following two weeks, they added another ace in A.J. Burnett, and their signing of free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira pushed New York's financial commitment to its trio of newcomers to a staggering $423.5 million.
But to date, the Bronx Bombers have provided the only evidence to counter Beane's theory -- and the sky-high revenue Yanks, who also pay luxury-tax bills that fatten other teams' coffers by way of revenue sharing, have long been the exception to many baseball rules.
Sabathia and Burnett were the top free-agent pitchers on the market, and Teixeira was the most attractive free agent among position players.
All-world closer Francisco Rodriguez signed with the Mets, but the only other major needle-movers who have signed -- shortstop Rafael Furcal re-signed with the Dodgers, closer Kerry Wood joined the Indians, and 45-year-old Randy Johnson decided to pursue career victory No. 300 with the Giants -- were taken off the market potentially at those clubs' peril; all three are viewed by many as injury risks.