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There are a few rather unique touches, though, that threaten to alter the offseason market. One is the sagging economy. Naturally, agents are calling this just another fake out designed to try to keep salaries artificially lower. Another element lurking out there is the financial might of the Yankees.

They have roughly $88 million coming off the payroll and a new cash-cow stadium, a combination that could make them, more than any other franchise, financially bulletproof even in this economy. They clearly are motivated to upgrade after failing to make the playoffs and have several areas of need. One agent said - without any hint of a joke - he would not be surprised if the Yanks signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez. "Beyond having a conscious, there is no reason the Yanks cannot take their payroll to $250 million or more."

An NL GM said, "The Yankees are the wild card of the offseason. Do they blow everyone away or do they operate like a real team with a real budget?"

The Yanks seem determined to try to solve their top need - starting pitching - via free agency with Sabathia, Burnett and Derek Lowe topping their list. But they certainly will be active information collectors if nothing else when the GM Meetings open tomorrow in Dana Point, Calif. If you think this gathering is a mere formality, then know this: The World Series was decided at last year's meeting. That is when Houston traded Brad Lidge to the Phillies.

The Lidge deal ushered in an offseason of high-profile trades. The players swapped between the last pitch of 2007 and the first of 2008 included Erik Bedard, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Garza, Troy Glaus, Josh Hamilton, Dan Haren, Carlos Quentin, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana , Nick Swisher, Miguel Tejada, Dontrelle Willis, Jose Valverde, Edinson Volquez and Delmon Young.

The free-agent class last offseason was horrible, which motivated trades. This year it is much better. But the economy is worse.

"I think, as always, you look trade first because the dollar costs are usually lower," an AL personnel man said. "And you have a few GMs such as [the White Sox's] Kenny [Williams], [Oakland's] Billy [Beane] and [Boston's] Theo [Epstein] who tend to motivate the trade market, and I think they will again this offseason."

Two high-caliber players - Colorado's Matt Holliday and San Diego's Jake Peavy - already are available, and the expectation is Magglio Ordonez will be, as well, as Detroit is forced to pare payroll. But it will not end there. The Brewers recognize their chances of signing a long-term deal with first baseman Prince Fielder (a Boras client) are unlikely. So this might be the last offseason they could expect a big package in return. It coincides with a time when they probably will lose free-agent starters Sabathia and Ben Sheets and, thus, have rotation needs.


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Added: November 3, 2008

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News » Offseason will be dictated by what Yankees do

Offseason will be dictated by what Yankees do

Offseason will be dictated by what Yankees do
The offseason has begun at its familiar point, which is to say teams already are acting outraged at the anticipated prices for free agents. Translation: Scott Boras is asking for what!

This is a rite of October/November played out annually before the first owner blinks, pays the freight and loosens up the whole industry.

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