As the free agent market continues to plod along, observers have continued to search for explanations. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that we’ve been weighing this topic this since late November, when it was already apparent that there were some forces at play that were slowing down signings. The full story has yet to be told, and won’t be until the market resolves itself, but it’s still worthwhile to think about the potential causes and ramifications.
In one of his last posts for Fangraphs, Dave Cameron observes that a lack of parity — on paper, at least — may be one cause of the glacial pace of signings. With leading organizations perhaps preferring to wait to see how their needs develop, and their top pursuers left unsure whether even significant investments will be enough, the current competitive imbalance could be helping to slow the market, Cameron argues.
Let’s take a look at a few links as the hot stove perhaps begins to sputter to life:
- Many others have also tackled the confounding nature of this year’s market in recent days. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic suggests there’s a “lack of engagement,” not just a lack of deals, in a report that indicates that some agents believe there may be a budding case for collusion. SB Nation’s Marc Normandin takes a historically oriented perspective, examining baseball’s history of collusive behavior and placing the currently stalled market in that context. SI’s Tom Verducci runs through the possible drivers of the slow-down. At Fangraphs, Travis Sawchik wonders if Boras’ approach still works, while Kiley McDaniel (welcome back!) examines the current state of teams’ efforts to find competitive advantage by allocating resources between scouting and analytics. (That last point ties into the view many have expressed that the slow market stems in part from an increasing convergence, as McDaniel terms it, in player valuations and strategies across organizations.)
- The Giants’ top offer to Jay Bruce was at the three-year level but would have promised about $10MM less to him than the $39MM he ultimately scored from the Mets, according to reports from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It seems that San Francisco was hoping to get some pop into the lineup at a bit of a discount, which is certainly understandable given the still-lengthy list of potential targets available in free agency and on the trade market. One additional name that has long been linked to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, remains of interest, Nightengale further notes. There’s also a case to be made that the Giants ought to take the opportunity presented by the slow market development while forgetting about the luxury tax line this year, as Andrew Baggarly writes for The Athletic. Of course, that’s also true for a few other teams, and it’s arguable that such interest will help prop things up once player movement begins in earnest.
- There are still ongoing signals that the Cubs could make a splash. As Paul Sullivan writes for the Chicago Tribune, surprise winter additions are fairly commonplace in Wrigleyville. Manager Joe Maddon suggested yesterday that he believes the front office is still looking to build out the roster, Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Maddon spoke highly of both Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, Kenney writes, and the skipper also hinted that president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer may not yet be done in adding pieces to the bullpen mix for the 2018 campaign.
- Seeking value will no doubt still drive Chicago, but it’s an imperative for the Indians. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer names 15 free agents who might represent highly affordable targets for the Cleveland organization. Buttressing the relief corps and adding a righty bat seem to be the top priorities, Hoynes notes.
- Free agent outfielder Jayson Werth has given no indication that he’s readying for retirement. To the contrary, he tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that he believes he can play for multiple additional seasons (Twitter links). There’s been little indication to this point that any particular teams are in pursuit of the 38-year-old after a rough and injury-limited 2017 campaign, but that could change once the market gets moving. Werth has posted decidedly subpar offensive lines in two of the past three seasons, but did hit at a league-average-ish .244/.355/.417 clip in 2016 and has continued to hit well against lefties.
- Veteran righty Francisco Rodriguez tells Jon Heyman of Fan Rag that he’s readying for a return and feels he can bounce back from a miserable 2017 season. The 36-year-old almost always delivered results in his 15 prior seasons of MLB action but was tagged for nine homers and 22 earned runs in just 25 1/3 innings last year, with a swinging-strike rate that dropped out of double-digits for just the second time in his long and excellent career. “I still have plenty left,” Rodriguez tells Heyman. “I am hoping to get an opportunity to help a team win a championship. I’m physically way better than I was last year. I’m ready. If I didn’t have it, I’d say it. I’m a straight shooter – my own worst critic.” Rodriguez is not receiving much interest at this point but says he’ll gladly throw for scouts to earn another chance.