Free agency is officially fully open – players can negotiate with, and sign with, new teams and all that jazz – but like I said this morning, this isn’t the NBA or NFL or NHL. Without a salary cap in place, there’s not the same need to move URGENTLY AND IMMEDIATELY to get your preferred targets so that you can make sure to coordinate the rest of your moves and max out your cap space. So a slow drip of rumors and moves is still what I would expect until after Thanksgiving.
Tonight’s moves around MLB …
The Padres re-signed breakout reliever Robert Suarez to a, frankly, shocking deal:
Don’t get me wrong. Suarez was great in Japan, and then he posted a 2.27 ERA in 2022 for the Padres. But he turns 32 in March, it was just 47.2 innings of success, and the peripherals (31.9% K, 11.0% BB, 8.6% barrel rate) aren’t THAT impressive. To guarantee him $46 million over five years – plus an opt-out! – is really head-scratching to me.
Best I can come up with is that the Padres (1) know some things about Suarez’s upside from here and they couldn’t let him go, and (2) the reliever market is so weak this year that they wanted to ensure they at least got one of the best, overpaying to do so.
In other words, I don’t *think* this is a sign of the price tags in the relief market moving up overall (or all free agent prices), but it’s notable that two free agents have signed, and both have been impact relievers, retained by their teams, on contracts that blew away estimates.
Oh, also: more players got Qualifying Offers than expected, which is also at least mildly suggestive of price tags going up across the board. Remember, with a new CBA in place, teams sometimes feel more comfortable spending more aggressively. And luxury tax limits went up, of course.
Meanwhile, the Rays worked on unclogging their 40-man by trading first baseman Ji-Man Choi to the Pirates for a fringe arm:
Choi, 31, is projected to get about $4.5 million via arbitration, so this is pretty much just one very cheap team that was gonna non-tender a productive guy offloading him on another very cheap team that can use him as a pretty significant upgrade for a low relative price. Choi is a career .239/.345/.429/116 wRC+ hitter in the big leagues, and that is more or less what you’d project for 2023: a perfectly solid, but unspectacular, first baseman. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of teams would be plenty happy with a 116 wRC+ at first base.