The Hot Stove is still fairly cool, as you may have noticed.
So far, there has been one major trade (Matt Holliday going to the surprising A's) and only one major signing (Ryan Dempster predictably going back to the Cubs for $52 million over four years) and not too many minor signings, either (Jeremy Affeldt was one good one; he went to the Giants for $8 million over two years) since the beginning of the full free-agent period.
The reasons for the tepid beginning to the winter are many. Such as ...
1. The economy stinks. It wasn't that long ago that commissioner Bud Selig declared how healthy the game was, and while he was right, the U.S. economy has gone into tank since those declarations, possibly scaring some owners, who may have lost personal fortunes in the freefalling U.S. stock market. At the very least, it's an easy and very believable excuse not to spend freely. Even if the owners aren't personally feeling the pain, they may still be reluctant to do an early deal before the market's been established in hopes it may be established a lot lower than anyone previously thought. Eventually though, the dollars will probably start to flow. Compared to many other business people, baseball owners aren't hurting. Revenues, which zoomed past $6 billion in 2008, are mostly locked in for next year through already signed TV contracts and other prearranged deals.
2. We're all waiting on CC Sabathia and possibly Mark Teixeira, two would-be market setters. Or at least the Yankees, one team that's clearly not afraid to spend, are waiting on Sabathia. And so are the next-tier starting pitchers, meaning Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett and the others. Not too many big stars typically sign by Thanksgiving week (Torii Hunter 2008 and Bernie Williams 1998 are past exceptions), so we're not complaining. But we are waiting.
3. Agent Scott Boras isn't often one for quick deals, and Boras has 14 free agents at last count. Though Boras client Kyle Lohse re-signed in October for $41 million over four years with the Cardinals, historically patience has been an ally for Boras, whose free agents this year include superstars Teixeira and Manny Ramirez, plus notables Lowe, Oliver Perez, Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez and the newly-acquired Garret Anderson. (While teams have been slow to acquire players, the same can't be said for Boras.)