The conversation around baseball, these days, remains focused on the vast number of available free agents. Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks, and there are still so many familiar names out there. It’s equally fascinating and confusing. Let’s check in on some reasons for the glut and other rumors from around the league …
- For ESPN Insiders, Buster Olney tries to explain how so many experienced MLB names remain unsigned ahead of the 2016 season. Guys like Jeff Francoeur, Shane Victorino, Maryon Byrd, Pedro Alvarez, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo are just some of the MLB caliber free agents still without teams. Some are role players and some are starters attached to qualifying offers, but, either way, it’s a lot of guys.
- Among several quotes from agents around the game, Olney is hearing that 1. teams aren’t regarding experience as highly as they once did, 2. teams are targeting increasingly younger players, 3. teams prefer to execute trades over spending in free agency, and 4. the teams that are tanking are not acquiring anyone, let alone older players, to improve. To which I say, it’s a bummer that players can’t find jobs, but if a team believes in a certain path to success, should we really stop them or imply that they are wrong for not signing aging, expensive veterans just because they have experience?
- David Schoenfield tackles the same issue, but with a more positive take: Five Free Agents Worth the Gamble . At the top of the list, of course, we find our old friend Dexter Fowler – who remains, to me, the most surprising free agent without a job. He mentions that the Cubs “soured on his ability to play center field,” which I don’t necessarily agree with, but then mentions the White Sox as a potential landing spot, which feels quite likely. Fowler finds himself ahead of Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, Burke Badenhop, and Mat Latos on the list.
- At the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo gets even more quotes on the matter from agent Scott Boras (who touts three of his clients, including Austin Jackson – a possible Cubs target to backup all over the outfield) as well as other agents and GMs. It would seem, understandably, that the agents quoted in all of these articles carry the same tune: teams aren’t signing good players, they’re not paying what they used to, no one values experience, etc. But at least one AL GM sees it another way: “The agents are still asking for Major League guarantees for players who should be grateful for Major League invitations and minor league deals.”
- They are tough words, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true. It is the middle of February and it might be time for some guys to recalibrate their expectations.
- Paul Hoynes did the mailbox thing (kind of like our very own Ask Away) for www.Cleveland.com and among his many thoughts, he doesn’t see the Indians in play for Austin Jackson. I still think that Jackson would be a fantastic, and seemingly affordable, addition to the Cubs, if he’s willing to take a backseat to Jason Heyward, but he should get a starting job somewhere, right? This market is pretty much turning everything we know about free agency on its head.
- After trading away Jake McGee, the Rays might look to fill the hole in the back of their bullpen through free agency. Tyler Clippard and Tommy Hunter are among the more notable names, but Clippard is expected to price himself out of their range. Alternatively, Marc Topkin reports, they might look to trade one of Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer for help in the pen. I don’t see too much connection with the Cubs, though, as they will most likely avoid any more additions in the pen and seems unlikely to trade away anyone from that group right now. The Cubs have some guys on the outside looking in with respect to the bullpen competition, but I’m not sure those would be guys the Rays would view as upgrades anyway.
- At the NY Post, Joel Sherman takes a look at several players switching positions throughout the league, including, most notably, Jason Heyward’s move to center for the Cubs. Sherman asks whether – or rather, how much – his value will fall if his defense doesn’t hold in center field. I believe Heyward will be a definite positive on defense in center field and still hit well above average on offense. I don’t know if his value goes up or down, compared to right field, but adding value in different ways isn’t a bad thing, either. His other skills, base running, approach, etc…. will remain unaffected.
- Adam Berry (MLB.com) does the mailbag thing for the Pittsburg Pirates and comes in for many, interesting answers. Among the most notable, is the Pirates unlikeliness to add a significant bat before the season starts. It was never too plausible, given the Pirates low spending ways, but with so many free agents on the board, you can always think on any team jumping at a late offseason opportunity.
- After holding a private workout for the Braves, Cuban prospect Lazarito is expected to make a decision later this week. More specifically, he said he will be making a decision on Wednesday, February 10. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll hear about it right away, but with the Gourriel brothers’ now apparent defection, Lazarito might be slightly more incentivized to get a deal done soon.