Heading into this offseason, we knew the Detroit Tigers weren’t going to do much. The club has been slashing payroll since July, shipping out top talent in exchange for promising prospects that will help them compete in (hopefully) more sustainable fashion in the future. Their days of inking nine figure contracts seemingly ever winter are over, and this offseason might be even drier than most as the roster continues to turn over.
The rest of baseball has been just as quiet, though. The Tigers were the first team to sign a major league free agent this winter, surprisingly, and few would have anticipated that player being pitcher Ryan Carpenter. First baseman Ryon Healy is the biggest name that has changed teams so far (unless you count former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus).
Not only are big-time free agents still unemployed, rumors themselves have been few and far between. There are a couple interesting trade rumors popping up now and then (more on those in a bit) but the Ken Rosenthals and Jon Heymans of the world seem a little more subdued than normal. Here are a few reasons why this may be the case:
Everyone wants a piece of Giancarlo Stanton
Outside of the Atlanta Braves front office scandal, Stanton’s pending trade has been the biggest story of the offseason around baseball. Several teams are interested in acquiring the newly-crowned MVP, including the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals and Giants have made formal offers for Stanton’s services, while as many as six others may be involved.
Stanton’s appeal is obvious. Not only does he look the part of a superhuman slugger, he backed that up with a 7.6 rWAR season in 2017. The 28-year-old right fielder hit .281/.376/.631 with a league-leading 59 home runs and 132 RBI in 159 games, a career-high. Teams have long salivated over power like that, and one imagines Stanton could hit more homers if he moves to a more hitter-friendly home ballpark.
Negotiating a trade like this isn’t easy, and the Marlins are apparently asking for the moon in return. With so many big market teams involved, other free agents have (presumably) been left on the back burner. Once Stanton is finally dealt — indications are this is a near-certainty this offseason — we should see interest in those players pick up considerably.
The Shohei Ohtani saga is dragging on
The other “big fish” in this offseason’s pool is two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. While the New York Yankees seem like huge favorites to land “Japanese Babe Ruth,” the new international signing restrictions have prevented this from turning into a simple bidding war. Any team with international bonus pool money remaining has a chance of inking Ohtani to a deal, and even the top offer won’t be much higher than a few million dollars.
This has turned Ohtani’s move to MLB into a recruiting war. The Seattle Mariners are putting a “full-court press” on Ohtani, and other teams will likely do the same. Outside of a $20 million posting fee, the financial commitment is negligible, so there’s no reason for any MLB team to not make a pitch for Ohtani. Even the Tigers, who have no eyes on contending in 2018 and have rarely signed Asian players, should be heavily involved in the Ohtani sweepstakes.
Like Stanton, Ohtani’s decision should have a domino effect on the rest of the Hot Stove. Once he signs somewhere, the teams that miss out will look elsewhere to fill holes on their roster for 2018.
Scott Boras is doing Scott Boras things
Super agent Scott Boras has a schtick. He asks for the moon early in the offseason, meets with nearly every team that will listen at the Winter Meetings, and waits until January or later to squeeze out every last dollar for his clients. While some may scoff at his tactics, he is one of the very best agents in all of sports.
This year’s client list includes J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, two free agents who have already asked for contracts in excess of $200 million. Neither player will get that much money, but both should see new deals well into nine figures. Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas are also Boras clients, giving him four of the top five free agents available (per MLB Trade Rumors).
Not every Boras client will wait until 2018 to sign, but we will still see him go through his war of attrition with various owners and general managers throughout baseball before his clients make a decision.