MLB's invisible salary-floor line

Updated: January 4, 2012, 8:39 AM ET
By Buster Olney

There is no hard salary floor established in the labor agreement, no specific minimum dollar amount that teams are required to spend. But there is an understanding between Major League Baseball and the players' association that the 30 teams will at least participate in the process and won't consistently work to field a bunch of minimum-wage players.

The Oakland Athletics signed Coco Crisp for $14 million during the next two seasons, and that may help the Athletics avoid getting slapped on the wrist by MLB and the union, which rendered that punishment a few years ago to the Florida Marlins.

The Athletics' strategy this winter is transparent: Because the team doesn't believe it can compete with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, given the current circumstances, Oakland decided to invest its assets to fight another day. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were swapped for prospects who may blossom in 2015 or 2016, by which time the Athletics hope to inhabit a new ballpark in San Jose.

The Athletics opened 2011 with a payroll of about $67 million, but through the free-agent departures of players like Josh Willingham and the trades of players like Mark Ellis, Oakland has dramatically slashed its payroll.