Come To Think of It: How MLB Is Becoming a Young Man's Game

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IJune 8, 2009

Whether it's due to the economy, the effects of drug testing, or smarter financial decisions, major league baseball is getting younger—and older stars do not stand a chance.

It started during the offseason following the 2007 season, when players like Kenny Lofton couldn't find work—and it has continued, with aging veterans being replaced by younger players with greater upside.

Oh, and smaller salaries too, by the way.

One look at the list of free agents who remain without a team, and you'll know this is true. Pedro Martinez, who looked impressive during the WBC, is still there for the taking, though his asking price is apparently too high.

Jim Edmonds, who looked good in a platoon role with the 87-win Chicago Cubs club in 2008, would like to play but can’t find a dance partner.

Geoff Jenkins, Mark Grudzielanek, Richie Sexson, Frank Thomas, Luis Gonzalez, and Paul Lo Duca, among others, presumably would like to play but may be forced to retire.

43-year-old future HOF'er Tom Glavine was just released by the Atlanta Braves. While he plans to file a grievance, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that teams are forgoing veterans for the promise of youth.

Uber prospect Matt Wieters takes over at catcher for the Orioles. Tommy Hanson takes Glavine’s rotation spot in Atlanta. Cardinals rookie Colby Rasmus pushes for playing time over older outfielders.

The beat goes on and on.

Meanwhile, teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Phillies need help but look internally to fill those spots. The Cubs have their best offensive player go down but do not rush out and buy a veteran stopgap solution. The Giants desperately want a bat but refuse to trade a young pitcher like Matt Cain.

The Boston Red Sox have been searching for a catcher and a shortstop, but Theo Epstein refuses to part with Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, or Manny Delcarmen.

They have looked into players like Orlando Cabrera and Jack Wilson but are unwilling to give up the players or take on the remaining salaries.

Now, if you're a productive younger star, you really have nothing to worry about. You'll still get your money. Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia proved that. Jason Bay will too, most likely after the season.

But gone are the days when mid-tier veterans are in demand at the price of your best young talent.

This may even affect the trade deadline this year. According to many baseball insiders, there will be several big names available from clubs who feel they are out of the race and are willing to dump salary.

But will there be clubs out there to take these players? Even the Yankees say they likely won’t be able to add salary this year.

The Cubs are in an ownership transition, and GM Jim Hendry's hands may be tied until that ownership issue is settled.

With the sale apparently stalled over television rights, it now appears doubtful that the Ricketts family will even purchase the team. Even if they do, it may not get settled until after the season, leaving one of baseball’s biggest spenders without any pocket change to spare.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has come out in the press saying he would like a big bat to hit behind Albert Pujols. But the only way he could afford that would have been if he went through with his lawsuit against Twitter. He could have used the resulting judgment to help pay for a player.

But seriously, you can see how the economics of baseball are changing. Not surprisingly so, since the world's economics have changed too.  

Young players, particularly if you delay their arbitration clocks properly, can belong to a team for six full years at a relatively reasonable price.

Evan Longoria, David Price, Wieters, and Gordon Beckham have all followed this plan. Bring them up in late May or early June, and you can push back their arbitration eligibility by one year.

Young players have always been worth their weight in gold. But it's especially true today, as the tarnished old veterans have come to find out.


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