Right-hander Alex Cobb entered free agency among the best available players, a 30-year-old destined to land one of the offseason’s richest contracts. While a hefty payday should still come, Cobb – like the rest of this year’s premier free agents – continues to wait for a deal nearly three months after the market opened. Cobb acknowledged to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that his trip to free agency during this famously plodding winter hasn’t gone according to plan, noting that “somewhere between November and December you realize how slow things are going and you kind of start reading the writing on the wall that this is a little bit of a different offseason than years before.” Cobb added that there has been frustration along the way, though he realizes he’s in the same situation as so many other unsigned players. “You just kind of change your frame of mind to accepting the fact that this thing is going to go down to the wire and you get comfortable with that,” he told Topkin in a piece that features other interesting quotes.
- Reliever Koji Uehara also seems perturbed with this offseason’s free agent process. And at 42 years old (43 in March), he’s unsure if he’s going to receive a major league offer. If one doesn’t come, Uehara could call it quits. “I’ll retire if I’m only offered a minor league deal,” he said (via the Kyodo News). “There have been some talks, but no offers have been forthcoming. It seems like something’s on the horizon and then it isn’t. I can be patient for a little longer.” In the event Uehara does secure a big league pact for 2018, he’s “more than 90 percent certain” he’ll stick with his previously stated goal to retire after the season. That would give him 10 major league campaigns and 10 years as a pro in his native Japan. Despite his age, Uehara remained a major league-caliber reliever in 2017. As a member of the Cubs, the righty registered a 3.98 ERA with 10.47 K/9 and 2.51 BB/9 across 43 innings.
- As MLB and the MLBPA spar over the league’s forthcoming implementation of a pitch clock, Buster Olney of ESPN writes that the two sides’ relationship may be at its worst point since the 1994-95 labor stoppage. The current collective bargaining agreement (which expires in December 2021) is seemingly a key reason, as many agents have suggested to Olney that the MLBPA “lost enormous financial ground” when it agreed to the CBA a year ago. As mentioned earlier, there’s a lack of movement in free agency; some agents believe the market inactivity has helped lead to the union’s close-mindedness toward the league’s ideas to speed up pace of play, per Olney, who argues that would be senseless on the MLBPA’s part. While there are plenty of theories about what has caused the offseason to go the way it has, one agent opined to Olney that collusion on the part of teams isn’t an issue. “I don’t think for one instant that this is collusion,” stated the agent. “[The union] negotiated the terms of this CBA, and it’s up to us [the agents] to adjust and give the best possible advice to our clients based on the market.”
- Continuing with the slow winter theme, Travis Sawchik of The Athletic observes that teams’ growing skepticism toward paying for free agents’ decline years is among the primary reasons for the glacial pace (subscription required/highly recommended). Indeed, one executive told Sawchik that “it’s not if you will lose on free agency, it’s how much you will lose.” Sawchik goes on to posit that the longer the offseason stays this way, the more likely it is low- to mid-spending teams could land quality players at discounted costs. He points to the Pirates’ signing of David Freese in 2016 and the Indians’ addition of Edwin Encarnacion last winter as recent examples of that happening.