As baseball teams converge for their annual winter bonanza, let us pause for a moment to take pity on one group: the owners of the sport's richest teams. This year, these people face a heart-wrenching situation that threatens to spoil one of their favorite December rituals—using their money to crush the sport's financial underclass.
Put simply, they have too much money to spend and not enough fancy toys to buy.
New local television deals have made baseball's upper class bigger and richer than ever before. But as more teams retain homegrown stars with long-term contract extensions, fewer and fewer marquee players are reaching free agency.
Most of the buzz at the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn. this week surrounds the fates of pitcher Zack Greinke and slugger Josh Hamilton. But the rest of the free-agent class inspires little excitement. And the trend doesn't figure to change in the years ahead. The decline in free agency, coupled with new restrictions on draft and international spending, has left owners to confront a dispiriting reality: Joining the nouveau riche isn't as much fun as it used to be.