What a boring off-season thus far. After Stanton and Ohtani made their decisions in early December, players have stayed where they are--for the most part. More recent moves came out of Pittsburgh when they finally decided to jump ship and focus on reestablishing the organization. The Pirates sent McCutchen to San Francisco and Cole to Houston; in total receiving a decent amount of prospects. Most notably, third-baseman Colin Moran and RHPs Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, and Kyle Crick. Nothing to get overly excited about, but it did add depth to SP prospects and an above-average third-base prospect. Other than that, acquisitions have revolved around relief pitching.
With majority of the top free agents still on the market, players may be forced to drop both their contract length and asking price. The fact that clubs are slow playing high-dollar free agents means one thing: they are not worth it. Currently, players like JD Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Eric Hosmer remain uncertain of their future. Others on the list include: Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb. While all are valuable in their own way, teams seem to not need their services; especially for their asking price. In most cases with players this off-season, they are asking for long-term deals anywhere from 4 to 7 years. Obviously, they want to high-ball teams to leave room for negotiating; however, teams are not budging.
So--Why is this happening? Every organization is beginning to understand that their prospects are ready for the major league level earlier on in their careers. Some prospects haven't even proven themselves in AA before getting the call-up; and yet still helps the club win games. Last year, we saw it happen for the Dodgers and their 22-year-old first-baseman--Cody Bellinger. Before the call-up, Bellinger racked up a total of 78 AB in AAA and 399 at AA. All of baseball knew this kid had potential from day 1; so it may not be a shock to anyone. That's what I'
m saying though. Year after year, a handful of young talent continues to produce at the highest level with little experience in the minors. Bottom line, organizations are starting to think twice before signing a guy like JD Martinez to a 5-year deal worth around $130m to $150m. The same
could be said about younger pitchers. The more obvious reasons for pitchers to receive the call-up sooner is due to stress on a pitcher's body. The less amount of innings pitched in minor-league games, the better. While it is more difficult for pitchers to be as effective as hitters when it comes to less experience, some have found success.
Another factor in slow playing the free agent market is due to the new tax threshold. In a nutshell, owners don't want to accumulate the consequences by adding a middle-age bat or arm to their roster. Some organizations are realizing that what they need they may already have in their farm system and/or their 40-man roster. In perspective, it wouldn't be worth it to them to add one more WAR to the lineup for the dollar amount and years attached to the player.
In the end, these free agents won't remain free agents for long. It's really difficult for me to see any player sitting out until they get the contract they want; especially players like Martinez, Hosmer, or Moustakas. They may be frustrated, but hey--it's an evolving game. Throughout the intro to this article, I have named a handful of current free agents. With little chatter going on in the baseball world, here is what I think is going to happen with certain players; which will include where they will land, how much they will receive, and why I came to this projection.
1. The latest news surrounding RHP Yu Darvish involved a 5-team list of possible suitors. Among the list are the Yankees, Cubs, Twins, Rangers, and Dodgers. To narrow down the list, I evaluated each team's salary; which subtracted the Dodgers and Yankees from the mix--leaving CHC, MIN, and TEX. With the acquisition of Tyler Chatwood, and strong ties with co-free agent Jake Arrieta, I believe the Cubs can be eliminated as well. Between the Twins and Rangers, I feel the Twins will spend the money on Darvish to compete with the division rival Indians. Considering the lack of production in the postseason, and rumors of tipping pitches, Darvish's stock went down--but not too much. Don't be surprised if he receives a 4-year deal in the range of $100m to $110m. If the contract is on the higher end, I would suspect a club option or two in the deal.
2. A quiet name on the market is former Cardinal, Lance Lynn. Unable to have much leverage with the amount of key SP names still on the market, Lynn presents an interesting and cheaper option for some clubs. After evaluating each club's rotation, three clubs stood out to me that would make sense for both parties. Among the few, the Rays, Orioles, and Brewers could be a nice fit. Similar to the Twins, the Brewers are riding close to the top with the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central. By adding another dominant SP to throw 180+ innings would improve their young rotation. The club already has a 2-3 surefire SP that helped them nearly make the playoffs a season ago. Understanding the young roster, it would make sense for the Brew Crew to add a smaller contract in both years and AAV. I assume a 4-year deal will likely happen; and should pay out around $70m and club options after the 2nd year--in case their young guys show dominance this season or in 2019.
3. So far, the Colorado Rockies have allocated their revenue towards relief pitching this off-season. With the departure of long-time Rockie, Carlos Gonzalez, the club will have either a corner-outfield or first-base spot open. It all depends on what they want to do with Ian Desmond. However, if Colorado wants to compete in the NL West, a big bat should be considered. In my opinion, Logan Morrison would be a substantial upgrade and very productive as their first-baseman. He brings the left-handed, power bat they lost when Gonzalez went on the decline. It makes sense for the club to add Morrison to allow youngster Ryan McMahon to act as a utility back-up to get his feet wet in the majors. Keep in mind, Morrison is 30 years old with a mediocre career under his belt. A field like Coors may be just what he needs after seeing a spike in his power last season. I have him signing a 4-year deal with Colorado; including club options for the 3rd and 4th year. Due to the two club options, I suspect Morrison will want a front-heavy contract. My guess, it would look something like this: Year 1- $16m, Year 2-$15m, Year 3-$14m, Year 4-$13m.
While many more stars are on the free agent market and trade block, those are three deals I feel make the most sense. With more key players remaining on the market, the rest of this off-season will be interesting. Here are my final thoughts on the off-season that I am not that confident will happen; but are still my predictions.
JD Martinez: BOS for 2yr/$42m--$19 (year 1), $23 (year 2)--Player Option after year 1
Jake Arrieta: PHI for 3yr/$80m---Player Option after year 2
Eric Hosmer: SD for 5yr/$115m--Player Options after year 2
Greg Holland: ARI for 3yr/$45m
Mike Moustakas: STL for 3yr/$40m---Club Option after year 1
Alex Cobb: BAL for 4yr/$68m
Jason Vargas: BAL for 3yr/$39m---Club Option after year 2