How Will the Economic Downturn Affect the Free-Agent Market?

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IOctober 9, 2008

Worry not, CC, you will still get yours, but how will the economic issues facing the U.S. affect the free-agent market for players like Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Raul Ibanez, and Casey Blake?

Owners will undoubtedly feel a crunch on their pocket books, whether it comes from their portfolio or in a drop in season-ticket sales, and most owners will pass on that pain to the team in one way or another, and it's likely to come in free-agent spending.

My sense is that savy teams will stop paying the exorbitant prices for exceptionally mediocre veterans, like Nick Punto or Wes Helms, and that teams may try to backload new contracts to a greater extent than usual.

While the big names will still command big money, younger players (non stud-class) should be looking for short-term contracts, such that they can test free-agency again soon, perhaps when the stock market is back over 10,000.

As for the vets, it's a tougher row to hoe. Long-term deals are always attractive to vets that may want to capitalize on their good years and then play out their later days without having to earn future money. Now is supposed their time to capitalize.

The key here is compromise, adding an extra year or a player option to a deal may be preferable to a team which is more acutely feeling the bind than adding a few million to a signing bonus or to the incentive portion of the contract.

It's important to recognize that the owners of these teams still have more than enough money to sign big-name players to the massive deals that we're used to seeing, but for tier-two players, the economic recession will almost surely be blamed for a small slide in free-agent contracts.