A record 117 players hit 20 or more homers in the 2017 season, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes in his latest column, and 16 of those players are now free agents. Crasnick speaks to a number of high-ranking execs, including Indians GM Mike Chernoff, Cardinals president John Mozeliak, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski, Angels GM Billy Eppler and Rays senior VP Chaim Bloom about baseball’s home run boom and whether it’ll dramatically impact the value of home runs in free agency.
“We all follow the trends,” says Chernoff. “At the same time, when we are actually evaluating players, we’re just looking at overall run production and prevention on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.” Bloom, meanwhile, suggested that his Rays will always seek value in areas of the market that may experience some depreciation in value. As Crasnick notes, that may partially explain why Tampa Bay swatted the sixth-most homers in baseball in 2017 but finished 22nd in OBP. It’s an interesting look at a some potential changes to the mechanics of player valuation that is packed with quotes from the executives who will ultimately have final say over those decisions.
A bit more from Crasnick…
- The Mariners are still involved in the market for outfielder Jon Jay, Crasnick reports on Twitter. Indeed, Seattle is a “prime player” for the veteran, who doesn’t deliver much power at all but owns a lifetime .288 batting average and has long been a significant on-base threat. As a left-handed hitter who can play some center field, Jay would likely fit well on quite a few rosters, so it stands to reason that he’d field interest from other quarters.
- Crasnick tweets that if the Rays don’t find a trade partner for infielder Brad Miller, they expect to tender him a contract at tomorrow evening’s 8pm ET deadline. Miller broke out with a 30-homer campaign in 2016 but was plagued by core muscle injury in 2017 and slumped to a .201/.327/.337 slash in 407 plate appearances. Crasnick’s tweet implies, of course, that the Rays do intend to shop Miller around to see if anyone has interest in the slugging utilityman, whom MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects to earn $4.4MM in arbitration this offseason.
- Also on the topic of non-tenders, Crasnick notes in the above column that the Astros are likely to tender a contract to slugger Evan Gattis tomorrow. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender/trade candidate due to his projected $6.6MM salary, some diminished productivity and the fact that backup catcher/designated hitter are among the few clear areas for improvement on a stacked Astros roster. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart suggested the same this week, but Crasnick and Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle both report that indications are that Gattis is not at risk of a non-tender.
- We’d also recommend circling back to Crasnick’s interesting recent column regarding the slow pace of transactions this winter. Though time has passed since it was written, we still have yet to see any truly significant transactions. Crasnick advances eight theories for why this particular market has been so sluggish — all of which, no doubt, are playing some role in the matter. Beyond the oft-discussed factors of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani, several of Crasnick’s points focus on this year’s particular class of free agents — many of whom share Scott Boras as an agent and others of whom are somewhat bunched up in a few positions. Luxury tax considerations, the anticipated super-class of 2018 free agents and a relative lack of selling organizations are among the other factors that have conspired to create drag, Crasnick posits.