A surprisingly large number of noteworthy veteran free agents are still available, a phenomenon that ESPN’s Buster Olney explores in his latest subscription-only column. The signing drought extends to big-name free agents like Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo to lower-tier players just looking for Spring Training invites. “I understand that my guy isn’t what he once was, but nothing? Not even a chance to come in and impress and beat out other guys for a job in camp? I just don’t get it,” one agent said. Several executives and agents believe that tanking could be part of the issue, as teams looking for a higher draft pick in 2017 have little need for a veteran who could provide a win or two. Other factors include an under-valuing of experience, and a greater reliance on both young players and trades to fill out a roster.
Here’s more from around the baseball world on Babe Ruth’s 121st birthday…
- The Blue Jays have hired Eric Wedge as a player development advisor, the team announced. The former Indians and Mariners manager is well known to Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins from their time together in Cleveland, which included an AL Central title and a run to Game Seven of the ALCS in 2007. Wedge had been rumored to join Toronto’s front office for several weeks.
- Wedge’s hiring “has the feel of manager in waiting,” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link) opines. A managerial change would be rather a surprise in the wake of the Blue Jays’ AL East championship, though skipper John Gibbons has a well-known close relationship with former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and it isn’t unusual for a new front office to install a new face in the dugout.
- Dave Pepe, Joe Nathan’s agent, tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi (Twitter links) that his client is planning to pitch in 2016. “He feels great…We are just going to look for the best opportunity and are not necessarily in any rush to sign,” Pepe said. Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery (the second such procedure of his career) last April and said earlier this offseason that he was hoping to pitch by May or June. Despite Nathan’s age and injury history, around 10 teams were checking in on him.
- It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a high school pitcher be selected near the top of the amateur draft, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron writes, with perhaps even the Phillies using their first overall pick on highly-touted southpaw Jason Groome. While only a few of the high school arms taken with the top few picks have developed into productive big leaguers, Cameron notes that this year’s draft class doesn’t yet offer much in the way of standout hitting prospects or college pitchers who could be technically “safer” choices.
- Some of the draft’s intriguing junior college prospects are profiled by ESPN.com’s Eric Longenhagen (Insider subscription required), including the children of some prominent former Major Leaguers.
- Each team’s roster is broken down by Fangraphs’ August Fagerstrom to investigate how clubs acquire their players — whether by trades, international signings, free agent signings, waiver pickups, or the amateur or Rule 5 drafts. Fagerstrom breaks down each category by fWAR to see where each club excels at deriving value, including some notable observations about the Giants’ unmatched wealth of homegrown talent and the Cubs’ strong run of recent trades.