"It's going to be very important for small and Rust Belt market teams to get off to good starts," one baseball management person says. "If they get off to bad starts, in this economy, fans may lose interest in a hurry. It's going to be hard to keep people paying in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Cincinnati if they're in a building mode, at least this season."
Hence, some of the richer teams have tucked cash away with the assumption that some franchises have to move contracts.
"The problem will be that the owners and general managers of distressed teams are going to have to realize that they're not going to get valued prospects for what, for them, are bad contracts," one GM says. "They may be put in very difficult positions of having to explain to their fans that they simply have to get out from under some contracts to afford to build from scouting and development."
The Tigers, for instance, are on the hook for nearly $140 million to Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson. The Reds are on the hook for $100 million on Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Brandon Phillips.