Over at The Athletic, Pedro Moura held a fascinating conversation with Angels slugger Justin Upton. (Subscription link.) There’s plenty of interest in the chat, though Upton’s comments on free agency are of particular interest and relevance. The thrust of his sentiment is that teams seem to be looking to score free-agent value rather than identifying and “courting” players they actively wish to employ. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” says Upton. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.”
Of course, Upton forewent a chance at returning to the open market by agreeing to a deal with an organization he was comfortable with. Here’s the latest on the unusually high number of quality free agents still not in camp and other market notes:
- The likelihood remains that the Rays will enter the season with Chris Archer on the staff, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports among other notes. That’s due in no small part to the team’s lofty asking price; one rival executive suggests that the Tampa Bay front office “wanted our whole farm system” to move Archer. The club has given that impression publicly, too. Senior VP of baseball ops Chaim Bloom reiterated that the expectation is to hang onto Archer and others in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). He added that the internal expectation is that it will begin to reap the rewards of an effort over recent years to bolster the farm depth while still trying to compete at the MLB level.
- It has remained interesting to consider whether the Nationals might pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. But there isn’t much recent indication of serious talks, and Heyman indicates that’s due to what seems to be a big gulf in the sides’ valuations. Washington won’t give top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto, per the report; while the club might part with young infielder Carter Kieboom or outfielder Michael Taylor, it seems Miami was asking for too much additional talent to be included in a package.
- The outfield market has certainly delivered some surprises thus far. Heyman says Jarrod Dyson spurned an early two-year, $14MM offer, though a source tells MLBTR that is not accurate. Dyson ultimately signed for $7.5MM with the Diamondbacks. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, each of whom were rated among the fifty best free agents this winter by MLBTR. Heyman says the Indians are still looking at right-handed outfield bats, though it would surely be a surprise for the team to plunk down any meaningful money to make an addition. Perhaps the trade route could still hold some surprises, though that’s pure speculation on my part.
- Veteran reliever Greg Holland might have overplayed his hand in spurning the Rockies earlier in the winter. Colorado was willing to give him something approaching the three-year, $51MM deal the team ultimately inked with Wade Davis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests in an appearance on the podcast of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. It’s premature, perhaps, to declare that Holland won’t be able to top that number, though it’s frankly difficult to see where that level of interest might come from — as MLBTR’s Steve Adams has recently explained.
- Holland’s list of suitors is in question at the moment. One thing that seems clear, per Heyman, is that the Cubs aren’t planning on making a surprise run at the closer. Rather, Chicago seems largely committed to utilizing Brandon Morrow in the ninth inning and is likely to hold back its remaining payroll reserves for potential mid-season additions.
- So, how low could the remaining pitchers go? Presumably there’s a point at which some bidding would occur. But it’s notable that, per ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson (podcast link), the Twins expressed interest in Lance Lynn in the range of just $10MM to $12MM over two seasons. Just how that level of interest came about and was expressed isn’t clear. The team has also made some fairly notable recent commitments and may just not have much more payroll flexibility. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Lynn’s current market value. Still, it’s interesting to learn that’s the current extent of Minnesota’s interest.