Normally, I’d expect to bring you another plethora of hot stove rumors, but here we are, on January 11th, and only 32 out of 166 major league free agents have been signed this offseason. We’re well beyond, “Huh, this is weird,” territory. And even now, we don’t appear to be on the brink of a flurry of signings.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Jay Bruce has reportedly agreed to a three year deal with the New York Mets. That’s all well and good. Bruce will earn an average of 13 million a year, which is close to his projected value. Look! A deal! Maybe things are finally going to break loose. It has to happen eventually. There’s a pretty good contender’s worth of players out there waiting.
All MLB free-agent team:— Chris Cwik (@Chris_Cwik) January 10, 2018
2B: Neil Walker
SS: Alcides Escobar
OF: JD Martinez, Lo Cain, Jay Bruce
SP: Darvish, Arrieta, Cobb, Lynn, Jaime Garcia
RP: Addison Reed
That team might make the playoffs.
It's Jan. 9
Scratch Bruce as of Wednesday night. It’s still a pretty good team.
That was quickly backed down as the teams were later reported to still be at a preliminary stage of exchanging names of prospects in return. Rumors persisted all day, but nothing was finalized. Cole’s wife isn’t enjoying this.
That’s okay. No one is.
The wheeling and dealing of the offseason is typically the point when a team’s future plans are revealed. When they take account of their hopes, compare them to reality, and make moves accordingly. Fans should be thrilled to have gotten their guy, or furious that a rival landed a coveted free agent. Yet we’re all still sitting here in the land of Nod, and a lot of fanbases, agents, and players are far less than thrilled with how things are going.
For the sport at large, this isn’t a great look. The game continues to boom in profitability, eclipsing $10 billion in earnings for the first time in 2017. Most teams also received a cool $50 million from the sale of BAMTech to Disney this offseason, and yet, under the auspices of the smart baseball revolution, a lot of ownership groups are finding every excuse under the sun to pass on spending to improve their clubs.
Obviously, the players shot themselves in the foot in the last CBA, and will have to wait several years to try and remedy the effects of the luxury tax threshold. However, there are plenty of teams with plenty of room to spend, and anyone willing to believe that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, or New York Yankees would be crippled financially by paying the luxury tax can contact me about a fine piece of oceanfront property I have available. It’s located just outside Omaha, Nebraska.
The excuses and rationalizations for all this are wearing very thin.
First we had the, “Giancarlo and Ohtani are holding up the market,” reasoning. Both have been with their new teams for nearly a month now. Of late, various pundits have spewed the, “teams are just waiting for arbitration hearings to end,” line, which is just the desperation of some sad baseball writer waiting for news. These hearings are generally dickering over a million or two dollars, maximum. It has no bearing on major free agent signings.
Then there is the ugly case of the Miami Marlins, whose sale and selloff has infuriated many this offseason, Marlin fans first and foremost. As Deadspin reports, Rob Manfred is catching hell from all sides for allowing an ownership group to take over the Marlins while putting themselves in immediate financial trouble, ensuring the ongoing selloff. A selloff which is possibly also underlying some of the lack of free agent deals. If you can trade for Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto or Justin Bour, you’re probably not so keen on signing J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to a 150 million dollar deal.
Indeed, as Ken Rosenthal reports for the Athletic—subscription only—agents for many players are already keeping copious notes of their conversations with teams to be prepared for a potential case against teams for collusion to depress free agent contracts. Whatever the causes, plural, the potential for this offseason to become a tipping point that leads to an work stoppage down the road, the worst possible scenario, suddenly seems a bit too close for comfort. Let’s hope the dam breaks in the coming weeks. We’re into mid-January, and the biggest story offseason is that it hasn’t happened yet.
The Tigers did a thing
The Tigers haven’t been quite as crazed for minor league free agent signings this offseason as they were last year, but it’s close. They added another veteran reliever in James Russell on Wednesday. You probably will never need to know his name. You may argue about the quality of his beard if he gets a cup of coffee this season.
Michael Fulmer is ready to rock
One thing the Tigers have going for them in 2018 is their presumed Opening Day starter. Fulmer reports that he’s ahead of the medical staff’s timetable for his recovery. He’s throwing from 120 feet, feeling great and perfectly on pace to enter spring training ready to go. Fulmer has spoken to both Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Chris Bosio, and is excited to get the season underway. Which is great, because he’s one of the few remaining reasons Tigers fans will have to be excited this season.
J.D. Martinez not a Red Sox?
Despite almost total radio silence in recent weeks, it is known that the Red Sox made an offer on the former Tigers slugger. Boston has always been the presumed landing spot for Martinez. Tommy Stokke at Fan Rag Sports takes a look around to see if another team might swoop in and add the biggest bat available instead.
I always feel like...
A rather creepy story from the annals of MLB agents came to light via Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. It was revealed that Jason Wood, an agent, and President of Baseball, for the Career Sports Entertainment agency, CSE for short, was discovered to have installed a videocamera in his shower, which was often used by players he represented. The fallout has been near total, as players such as Andrew Benitendi, Mitch Keller have already left the agency in what appears to be a complete exodus of baseball players from CSE following the revelations. I’m sure Scott Boras door is wide open, fellas.
Around the horn
Jay Jaffe investigates Jake Arrieta’s actual value in free agency. The latest move in a series of changes at FanGraphs sees Dave Cameron leaving to take charge of the San Diego Padres research and development team. In his last official article, Cameron looked at whether the concept of the super team is killing competitive balance in the major leagues. Meg Rowley’s first piece since moving to FanGraphs is a rather hilarious look at adding a penalty box to baseball. Ok, I’m curious too.
Grant Brisbee takes a look at the Giants positional rankings to squint and say that maybe the Giants are right to be going for it this year? Yeah we’ve been there too, Grant. Kenny Crocker over at Pinstripe Alley examines Didi Gregorious, and why, despite all the deserved hype for Judge, Severino and Stanton, the Yankees shortstop is the lynchpin that holds the roster together.
And, if you didn’t read this piece on the current battle for the soul of major league front offices between scouts and analysts by FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, you really should. If, you know, you’re into that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez has seemingly posted a workout video everyday this offseason. Who knows if he’ll find consistent command this season, but whatever comes, it won’t be from lack of trying.