Or so I imagine.
In soccer over in the Old World, if you make a move on a player that is playing for another team, you owe that team money. It's known as a transfer fee, and in some cases, they are quite substantial.
For example, in 2001 Real Madrid paid Italian club Juventus some 45 million pounds just for the right to sign Zidane.
US sports don't have anything that is similar. But I'm guessing the Texas Rangers wish MLB did. In the past couple of weeks, they've lost Mark DeRosa, Gary Matthews Jr, and now Carlos Lee. I very rarely sympathize with the owners of teams, but it does seem to me that a way that small market teams (like the Twins!) could get fair market value on a guy is if transfer fees were a way of doing business. The player can veto any move, of course (we don't need to relive Curt Flood). But let's say, for example, that some Twins rightfielder is having a breakout season in his second year of a 3-year contract. As it stands now, teams maybe wait out that last year, knowing that the Twins won't be able to sign him. At the end of his contract year, the bidding goes fast and furious, and usually, the team with bigger pocketbook wins.
But let's say teams could approach the Twins in the middle of that breakout year, offer them money for the chance to write a new contract with the breakout outfielder. That way, there's an actual transfer of wealth from big team to small team. And the player still gets paid, and has just as many options as he did at the end of his contract year.
Who would be against such a system? Well, the Yankees, Red Sox, and all of the other teams that have a habit of snapping up great players for the short term in exchange for prospects. The losing team with one great player knows it probably won't get a better deal, and won't be able to afford to resign the player in question. Everyone wants to play for a winner, after all. Imagine the power for a smaller market if they could say to the New York Yankees, "Yes, you could sign this guy out from under us in a year, but we've been talking to the Red Sox, and they are going to give us $20 million dollars to sign him right now."
Oh, and is it just me, or does this Carlos Lee deal seem like it will be a good deal for one, maybe two years, tops? Don't get me wrong, I think Carlos Lee is a hell of a player. But expecting him to hit over .300 with power when he's 34 seems like a bad deal. And that's clearly what the Astros are expecting.