Baseball is doing better than most businesses. But you know something's amiss when even the Yankees are claiming they can't add salary or expand their payroll.
Ultimately, the $200 million team just might find a few mil in the seat cushions. But for now anyway, they're saying they are tapped out.
The same may be true for the Cubs, yet another storied big-market club that may not spend this summer. The Cubs' situation could be compromised by the glacial pace of the team's sale. At present, their player dealings appear to be in the same sort of limbo as the sale, meaning their big in-season acquisition may be limited to recovering star Aramis Ramirez.
The Rangers also are believed to have very little money for player acquisitions, while the Braves are thought to be in that boat, too. Word was, Atlanta needed to balance the books to bring in Nate McLouth (which they did by releasing longtime great Tom Glavine).
The tight monetary stance might put those clubs in a majority of baseball teams that are counting pennies.
Although, there are still several teams that will likely take on a salaried player if he helps. Even taking the Yankees at their word (for now, anyway), perhaps as many as 10 teams can add payroll. Let's start with three big-market clubs that surely have the wherewithal and willingness to take on salary:
1. Red Sox: They have great revenue but few needs, the perfect combination. With starting shortstop Jed Lowrie expected back within two weeks and Nick Green filling in ably, the need isn't as great as believed at shortstop. And David Ortiz is finally allaying season-long fears about his hitting, though that may still be the one area they'd look to improve.
2. Mets: Brand-new Citi Field should provide plenty of revenue, and heaven knows, they have needs. A hitter who plays the outfield or first base (but preferably both) is the priority. Though, there are issues with bullpen and rotation (not to mention defense and baserunning).
3. Phillies: They've said all along that they'd like another starting pitcher, and a top-flight one at that. So that'd cost a few bucks.
Those three teams could be joined by five more likely spenders ...
4. Angels: A model franchise, they don't often need much at the midway point. But they've suffered a lot of bad luck involving pitchers this year. As far as the loot, they're attempting to sign five of the top 50 draft picks. Still, they may have a few shekels left over from the winter when they failed to land Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Plus, they have several stars coming off the books after this season.
5. Giants: They have a new aggressive, involved owner in managing partner Bill Neukom, and longtime GM Brian Sabean is in the last year of his own deal. A hitter would certainly help.
6. Cardinals: They've looked at both hitters and pitchers, and could go either way. The Cardinals have been very fiscally prudent in season in recent years. But at the very least, they are looking hard.
7. Brewers: Owner Mark Attanasio showed a willingness to take on salary last year with the wise, well-timed acquisition of Sabathia, which pushed them into the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. They are suggesting they may go for either a hitter or pitcher this time, but with Manny Parra in the minors and Dave Bush struggling, a wise move might be two pitchers.
8. Tigers: Owner Mike Ilitch said his team will do what's necessary, suggesting they may add a bit of salary to their $140 million payroll. They could go either way, pitcher or hitter.
And here are two more possible spenders ...
9. White Sox: One of baseball's more unpredictable teams already showed they were willing to take on the nearly $60 million remaining on Jake Peavy's contract. They have a shot in the wide-open AL Central but the ace Peavy was viewed as a special case. The White Sox may not go for it quite like in the past, as they haven't proved to themselves that they are a World Series threat just yet.
10. Dodgers: They kept their payroll to $100 million, so they should have money, too -- though owner Frank McCourt has generally preferred not to add salary in season. Last year they managed to make their two big purchases of Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake by convincing the trading team to pay the freight. To do that, though, oftentimes means giving up a big prospect (for Blake, they surrendered catching standout Carlos Santana). While their needs appear few, a pitcher wouldn't hurt.
And, of course, we can't really count out one more team ...
11. Yankees: Of course, they can never be ignored, not with their through-the-roof revenues. History tells us they may find a few extra bucks (or more than a few), if needed. They did sell some of those $2,500 seats, after all.
Pedro Martinez's agent Fern Cuza suggested by phone late last week that he expected to have a deal for Martinez sometime this week. Cuza also said Martinez planned to be a starter.
But the question remains: Where is he going?
Six teams were set to watch Martinez's workout last Friday -- the Angels, Rays, Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals and Brewers -- though mysteriously, Brewers scouting guru Dick Groch was quoted saying their scout never got to see Martinez.
The Cubs have been among the most interested in Martinez all along, but their ownership situation seems to have curtailed their pursuit (see above). The non-contending Indians and Diamondbacks have been mentioned as having interest, as well.
Martinez did throw fine. One scout filed a report saying Martinez showed a "good changeup,'' "decent curve,'' and 87 mph fastball, and called him a "soft fifth starter,'' according to Danny Knobler of cbssports.com.
Still, it's hard to guess who's ready to step forward. The Yankees don't appear ready to make a play, and according to the Los Angeles Times, the Angels and Dodgers aren't going to go for Pedro. The Rays have characterized their interest as "slight,'' though they have been scouting him regularly.
Whatever team signs Martinez will want a gauge of when he can be back pitching at the big-league level. Cuza said the goal is to have him ready by shortly after the All-Star break.
• Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said he believes No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley, who played first base at UNC this year, will make a fine center fielder. Ackley was considered the best college hitter in the draft. Drawn-out negotiations are expected with Ackley seeking close to $10 million. It's not anticipated to be as rough as the Stephen Strasburg talks, but rough nonetheless. Ackley is thought to want to duplicate the $9.5 million deal Mark Teixeira got from the Rangers.
• Zduriencik said he has yet to receive a call of interest in third baseman Adrian Beltre, who's in the last year of his $64 million, five-year contract.
• In the meantime, the Mariners (35-34, winners of three straight) continue to be one of baseball's surprising teams under new manager Don Wakamatsu.
• Teixeira, incidentally, said he's got his Dallas area home for sale. He didn't say how much. If anyone's interested, I'll try to get details.
• Heroic effort by Ryan Howard, who came out of the hospital despite his flu to homer Saturday. But a return to the hospital forced him to miss Sunday's game, and his consecutive games-played streak finally ended at 343.
• Maybe all those pitches are finally catching up to Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5, 8.23). He never was in the greatest shape.
• Fortunately, the Red Sox never traded Brad Penny. The market wasn't great for Penny, who's been a plus for Boston. While he's winning in the AL East, scouting reports have been mixed. One NL executive said, "He's ordinary.''
• Nice to see the receptions Derek Lowe and Mark DeRosa received upon making their returns to Boston and the North Side of Chicago, respectively. Lowe helped the Red Sox reverse the curse and win the 2004 World Series. DeRosa is now credited with being the key man in the Cubs' nice 2008 season. Nice, but the reception was like he was a Hall of Famer. The way the Cubs' season was going, maybe the fans were feeling nostalgic. Or maybe the ovation was a message to reacquire DeRosa.
• Congrats to Tony La Russa, who won his 2,500th game Sunday. That's a lot of thinking.
• Albert Pujols has accounted for many of those victories, and his six-RBI game just added to his Kansas City lore. In 27 games in his hometown, Pujols has 12 home runs.
• The White Sox have been willing to trade prospects in the past to enhance their pennant chances, but they may not be as likely to do so this year. While they aren't out of it in the wide-open AL Central, they aren't playing well enough to sacrifice the future. Their top prospect is the recently promoted infielder Gordon Beckham.
• The Boston Globe reports that Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo can be had in trade.
• Alex Rodriguez's two days of rest was instigated by the front office, as was reported first here. But it shouldn't necessarily be taken as a slap at manager Joe Girardi. A-Rod just couldn't bring himself to admit he was wearing down whenever Girardi checked with him. So Yankees higher-ups Brian Cashman and Randy Levine engaged A-Rod and Yankees medical staff on a conference call (Girardi wasn't available at that moment), and Rodriguez finally admitted he was tiring to the point where he wasn't himself. Rodriguez's refusal to give Girardi the straight dope isn't a reflection on Girardi but the natural course for players who don't like to sit. So the decision was made on the conference call.
• But Yankees higher-ups weren't too thrilled with the way the entire team played in losing a series to the Nationals at Yankee Stadium. "Going through the motions,'' was one phrase that was heard.
• Nats manager Manny Acta will take it, as winning two of three probably saved his job for now.
• Girardi gave a touching speech about his father, Jerry, at an Alzheimer's charity function last week. Girardi's dad was his coach in baseball and football growing up in Peoria, Ill.
• Good to see Big Papi homer on Father's Day.
• I hope the government doesn't pursue a case of perjury against Sammy Sosa. Aren't they spending (wasting?) enough money and time on Barry Bonds already?
• My incessant tweeting continues at http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.