Just over a year removed from the 2015-16 offseason, nine of the top ten contracts handed out last winter are already looking problematic, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Only Johnny Cueto turned in a vintage season in the wake of signing his pricey deal with the Giants last winter, while the other nine (David Price, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen and Mike Leake) ranged from slight to complete disappointments in their first seasons with their new teams. Injuries played a role in several of these down years, which is perhaps even more ominous for the teams that have tens of millions in remaining commitments to these players. While this winter’s free agent market wasn’t as star-studded as the last, the lack of early returns on many of the 2015-16 investments could be another reason — beyond the new CBA, luxury tax concerns or a simple lack of elite talent — that teams were far more reluctant to spend over the last few months.
Some more from around the baseball world…
- Kelly Johnson has received interest from the Blue Jays, Braves and Reds about a minor league deal and non-roster invite to Spring Training, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Johnson, however, is still holding out in the hopes of landing a Major League contract. Atlanta’s interest in a reunion with Johnson has been well-documented, though Cincinnati and Toronto are new names as suitors. The veteran utilityman would fit as a needed left-handed bat and versatile bench piece for both the Reds and Jays.
- The Reds also have Ryan Raburn and Desmond Jennings in camp on minor league contracts, and their track records mean more to manager Bryan Price than their Spring Training performance necessarily does, the manager tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon and other media. “Hopefully with the Raburn, Jennings group of experience and even [Hernan] Iribarren with his background, you want to have at least one of those guys if not two of them on the club to lend that experience,” Price said. The skipper’s further comments about valuing experience and versatility could be another hint as Cincinnati’s interest in Johnson, though that’s just my speculation.
- After a wild offseason that saw Richie Shaffer become property of five different teams, he may now be emerging as a candidate for the Indians’ Opening Day roster, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. Shaffer is hitting very well in spring action and his ability to play first base, third base and both corner outfield slots serves him well on a Cleveland team that is looking for flexibility with Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley both facing DL stints to start the season.
- Then again, it’s pretty rare for a player to win an Opening Day job with a big spring unless he’s already in a general manager’s plans, ESPN’s Jim Bowden writes (subscription required). As GMs Dayton Moore, Jerry Dipoto and Thad Levine all tell Bowden, teams tend to have a set timeline for their minor leaguers and many non-roster invitee veterans are around to provide depth. “Intuitively, we know that 10-15 innings pitched or 40-50 plate appearances do not represent a significant amount of performance from which we should make meaningful changes,” Levine explained. “That being said, when a player’s performance is married with work ethic, character and a clear sense that he will enhance the team’s chemistry, the temptation to alter plans becomes real.”