Why are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still available on the free agent market, with relatively few teams in the hunt for two 26-year-old stars? As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) explores, their situation is another sign of how baseball’s “current economic system is outdated and flawed.” Teams are increasingly leery of signing players to ultra-long contracts, yet are also just as worried about signing players to contracts with fewer years but higher average annual salaries out of fear of crossing the luxury tax threshold. The result is “baseball’s version of a Catch-22,” Rosenthal writes, and he also points out that teams seem unnaturally adverse to making luxury tax payments given that relatively tiny amount of money actually spent on the tax.
More from around the game as we head into the weekend…
- In a conference call with reporters (including ESPN.com’s Coley Harvey) today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that he kept in contact with Manny Machado’s camp, and let them know in advance about the team’s plan to sign Troy Tulowitzki. Beyond that, Cashman unsurprisingly didn’t share details about New York’s pursuit of Machado, and in fact stressed that Tulowitzki is atop the club’s depth chart at shortstop, at least until Didi Gregorius is healthy. “We have really reacted in a positive way to have that type of dialogue with Troy and to commit to giving him that opportunity to be our everyday shortstop,” Cashman said. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily close the door on the idea of Machado joining the Yankees — beyond just gamesmanship on Cashman’s part, Machado could also be deployed as a third baseman, with Miguel Andujar then either moving to first base or perhaps traded to another team.
- Yusei Kikuchi received several seven-year contract offers from teams, agent Scott Boras told reporters (including TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune) during Kikuchi’s recent introductory press conference. While such offers guaranteed Kikuchi more security, they also would’ve required Kikuchi to adopt a regular MLB workload right away, which concerned both the southpaw and Boras given how several Japanese pitchers in the past have suffered arm injuries while adapting from a Japanese pitching schedule to North American baseball’s every-five-days rotation lineup. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto answered those concerns with both a unique plan for managing Kikuchi’s arm and innings, as well as a contract that could last three, four, or seven years in length.
- Pitching has gone from a weakness to a strength for the Red Sox over the last five seasons, and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe details how the club upgraded its scouting and development system to better identify talent and then further build on that talent once on the Sox roster. Speier delves into the team’s acquisition of Nathan Eovaldi at the trade deadline, and how Eovaldi took on some tips from pitching coach Dana LeVangie and assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister to make his fastball more of a weapon. These tweaks and an increased usage of his curveball took Eovaldi’s performance up another notch (after he already pitching well for the Rays) after joining the Red Sox, and he then was one of the stars of Boston’s World Series run.