Yesterday’s sharp turn has me less optimistic about imminent signings than I’ve been at any point this offseason (which is saying something, since, the signings would normally have to pick up as the calendar moves forward). Despite the freeze and the shouts of collusion, we have yet to actually see a free agent take a deal that made us all pause and think, “Whoa, that’s way less than we expected.” That’s certainly suggestive of a free agent class that is, across the board, unwilling to settle for contracts below what they deem appropriate, regardless of what the “market” might be telling them. That could easily lead to tons of unemployed players well into February and March, if not long after the season begins.
Here’s hoping my newfound pessimism is unwarranted, and we get some surprising activity tonight and tomorrow …
- But, speaking of the freeze, Jed Hoyer frames things in an uncomfortable way if you’re hoping for activity (ESPN): “There’s a bit of a freeze right now because both sides feel good about their position and justified in their position. That’s why it has been so slow.” That reads like a nice way of saying each side has dug in their heels and they aren’t moving.
- I won’t put words in his mouth, since Hoyer is speaking generally, but if we wanted to think about this in reference to a particular free agent, it’s not hard to talk about Yu Darvish here – Darvish may very well justifiably be seeking a six or seven-year, $150+ million deal, but if the Cubs have supreme confidence that they are currently bidding only against teams that are small market and/or can only go to five years and $100-ish million, they have little reason to push up into the range Darvish believes he is worth. And if that kind of gap has developed with a lot of teams and a lot of free agents (i.e., the leading suitors are keeping their offers down where the “rest” of the offers are, but the free agents see their value as much higher), the only pressure that can cause either side to blink will be the approaching start of the season. “You really want me on your team this year? Well then you have to come up to my price, regardless of what other teams are bidding” versus “You really want to play baseball for money this year? Well then you have to agreed to the best deal we’ll offer you, and it will be only in the range of these other offers.” And each side just keeps on staring down the various key dates that lie ahead on the calendar. This is uncomfortable.
- Meanwhile, this does put it in perspective:
Here's another way to put this strange baseball offseason in perspective.
It's Feb. 2…
And 13 teams haven't signed a single free-agent position player to a major-league contract.
I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 2, 2018
- Most of those 13 teams (holy sh*t, 13 teams!) are in the “rebuilding” group, though some of them have signed some pitchers (mostly relievers). They simply have no reason to sign quality free agents right now, until and unless they can get them on contracts that will make them easily flippable … but the risk there is that so many teams don’t want to add salary that market for flipping might be limited in July, too! A reminder that we talked about that issue this morning, and how you could differently incentivized teams like that to compete.
- Tom Haudricourt reports that “there are no indications the Milwaukee Brewers are close to making a major pitching move, either through free agency or the trade market,” so don’t look for them to be blinking any time soon. Instead, they are apparently content to lay in wait (like so many other teams), pouncing if the right opportunity presents itself. I strongly doubt that will wind up being Darvish, but I do think there’s almost no chance the Brewers enter the season without having added one more starting pitcher.
- To that end, you are reminded that, even after Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn, there are a ton of quality big league starting pitchers (even if back-end/depth types) still available in free agency. Even a guy like Jaime Garcia could improve the Brewers’ rotation, and how much is he going to be able to command in this market? That’s someone who could very affordably wind up a two-win pitcher for a team like the Brewers, leaving them more money to spend at the deadline if they need to make an in-season addition.
- JT Realmuto is still making it very clear that he wants to be traded by the Marlins, who accommodated that wish from Christian Yelich, even though he had no actual ability to dictate a trade other than by publicly requesting it.
- Sign him! Play forever, Big Sexy:
Sources: Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and the Rangers are in talks on a minor league deal. There is momentum.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 3, 2018
- /s I guess the Rangers really are out of the Yu Darvish race.
- Relatedly, someone sign Ichiro before he goes back to Japan, damn it! This slow-moving market is going to cost us all a chance to see a 44-year-old Ichiro still slapping knocks. There’s gotta be a rebuilding club that just wants some attention, right?