One of my goals for MLBTR for 2021 is to update our agency database and improve its functionality. Once the database is revamped, it will feature anyone who played in the Majors in the last three seasons as well as Baseball America’s most recent top 100 prospects, and we’ll work hard to keep it up-to-date. As it stands, our database has a fair number of inaccuracies as well as missing agencies for certain players. I’ve created a Google spreadsheet here with our current info. If you work for an agency and have corrections or additions, please drop me a line at email@example.com. I also welcome corrections if they come from a recent credible article, which you can link to in the comments of this post. We appreciate the help.
Teams have their hands full today with the opening of the international signing period, as well as the now-passed deadline for arbitration agreements. While we sift through those financials, here’s the latest on how the pandemic continues to affect the sport…
- MLB hopes to bring back seven-inning doubleheaders and the runner-on-second-base extra-inning rule, writes USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The league is advocating for a continuation of these rules specifically for fear of the coronavirus continuing to affect the schedule. The league also seems to be in favor of keeping the universal DH and expanded playoffs, though those issues are still being discussed. No rule changes are made official, of course, until the league comes to an agreement with the MLBPA. The debate around expanded playoffs seems particularly challenging right now, as a greater playoff field, in some minds, actually de-incentivizes teams from spending in free agency since they have a greater margin for error. Reduced spending on free agents is a hot button issue right now, and it’s going to be the lens through which the players view many of the topics under discussion for 2021. Nightengale notes that there’s at least a chance that MLB ends up with the same rules in 2021 as in 2020, with the exception of roster sizes dropping back down from 29 to 26.
- The Rays are planning to allow roughly 7,000 fans per game in 2021, socially distanced and wearing masks, of course, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, much can change between now and April, but the hope is that greater vaccine rollouts can mitigate the number of breakouts around the country. The Rays plan to re-open part of their upper deck seating to help keep fans appropriately distanced. The Rays are prepping best they can to allow fans in for games, but it will still come down to getting approval from MLB and government authorities. The Rays hope to have more information about ticketing ready before the end of February.
Major League Baseball is reportedly hoping to delay the 2021 regular season until May, which would set the stage for a second consecutive shortened campaign. However, the MLBPA fully plans on returning to a 162-game schedule next year, Evan Drellich of The Athletic reports.
In a statement issued Tuesday, MLBPA senior director of collective bargaining and legal Bruce Meyer said (via Drellich): “We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season. To be clear, and as we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up for spring training on time for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule.”
At least a couple of the “anonymous quotes” Meyer referred to came from owners, including one who expects a delayed spring training and perhaps a 130 game-season. Depending on whether there are no fans (or at least fewer fans) in the stands next year, that may benefit the owners. However, it’s not going to fly for the union, as players are already coming off a season in which they lost 102 games and had to accept prorated salaries for the 60 they did play. While the union isn’t necessarily against revising the schedule, per Drellich, that’s only if the league manages to play a full 162 in 2021 or if each player at least earns a whole season’s pay.
The league has not yet proposed a truncated schedule to the players, according to Drellich, who notes that MLB has no right to impose a season length under the collective bargaining agreement. As Drellich points, though, there are other complicating factors, including whether Florida and Arizona municipalities will even allow spring training to begin on time. MLB could also suspend the season because of a national emergency, but that would surely lead to more strife between the league and union. That’s the last thing either side needs with the CBA set to expire in December 2021.
Several notable players have surpassed the threshold for Super Two status, earning them an extra year of arbitration eligibility. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the following players have all gained a fourth arbitration year: Walker Buehler, Clint Frazier, Max Fried, Dominic Smith, Mike Soroka, Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, and Brandon Woodruff. Other players who should qualify include J.D. Davis (as Tim Britton of The Athletic notes via Twitter) and Austin Slater (as per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman).
The official Super Two cutoff point hasn’t yet been established. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler reported that Miguel Andujar (who has two years and 117 days of service time) fell five days short of Super Two status, though Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals’ Wander Suero “missed it by just a few days,” and Suero has two years, 123 days of service time.
Of the players mentioned, Frazier has the least amount of service time, with two years and 133 days. For comparison’s sake, here are the Super Two cutoff points for the last 11 years….
- 2019: 2.115
- 2018: 2.134
- 2017: 2.123
- 2016: 2.131
- 2015: 2.130
- 2014: 2.133
- 2013: 2.122
- 2012: 2.140
- 2011: 2.146
- 2010: 2.122
- 2009: 2.139
As a refresher, all players become eligible for arbitration after they amass three full seasons of Major League service time. However, of the players who have between two and three seasons of service time, the top 22 percent of that group qualify as Super Twos, and thus they get become arbitration-eligible going into their third season, not after their third season.
Naturally, this means a lot of extra money in these players’ bank accounts, as they’ll get a significant raise on the minimum salary. For the players who have already posted some big numbers, the ability to not just get an extra arbitration year but to establish a high salary benchmark in that first year provides the opportunity to bank several extra millions of dollars in escalating salaries through their arb years. For instance, Soto has done nothing but mash at a Cooperstown level since joining the Nationals’ lineup, and is projected to earn between $4.5MM and $8.5MM in his first arb-eligible year. Assuming Soto keeps producing at anything close to his current rate, he seems like a solid bet to reach $20MM in average annual salary by his fourth year of arbitration eligibility.
This offseason’s arbitration class is unusual, of course, since the shortened season will throw off some of the normal methods for calculating arb salaries. In his annual arbitration projections for MLBTR, Matt Swartz provided three different methods (and often, three different projected salaries) for each player, depending on how arbiters view 2020 statistics.
It’s time for the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Prediction Contest! Click here to enter your picks for the destinations for our top 50 free agents. The deadline for entry Friday, November 20th at 11pm central time. You can edit your picks until then. Further contest info:
- After the window to make picks has closed, we’ll post a public leaderboard page so you can see who’s winning the contest as players sign with teams. We’re going to use entrants’ full names on it. So, if that concerns you, please do not enter the contest. Entries with inappropriate names will be deleted.
- We are also collecting email addresses, which I will use to notify winners. I may also send occasional promotional emails for Trade Rumors Front Office.
- If a player signs between now and the close of the contest, that’s a freebie, but you still need to go in and make the correct pick.
- After you submit your picks, you’ll receive an email from Google Forms. In that email, you’ll see a button that allows you to edit your picks.
- We will announce the winners on MLBTR once all 50 free agents have signed. We will award $500 to first place, $300 to second place, and $100 to third place. We will also be giving out ten one-year memberships to Trade Rumors Front Office. Winners must respond to an email within one week.
- Ties in the correct number of picks will be broken by summing up the rankings of the free agents of the correct picks and taking the lower total. For example: Tim and Steve each get two picks correct. Tim gets Trevor Bauer (#1 ranking) and James Paxton (#20 ranking) for a total of 21 points. Steve gets Ha-Seong Kim (#6) and James McCann (#14) for a total of 20 points. Steve’s total is lower and he’s ahead of Tim for tiebreaker purposes.
If you have any further questions, ask us in the comment section of this post! Otherwise, make your picks now!
We’ll be taking reader submissions beginning Monday for our MLB Free Agent Prediction Contest. Once all the entries are in, we like to put up a leaderboard on the site, which gets updated as players sign with teams.
I’m seeking someone to build a leaderboard from scratch, very similar to this one from last year. On the backend, I’ll need a place to list the 50 contest free agents, update with the correct teams after each one signs, and import around 7,000 contest entries from Google Forms. The front end will look and function exactly like this.
If you’re interested in tackling this paid project, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining your qualifications.
I’d like to take a brief moment to note that MLB Trade Rumors will no longer be doing posts when players change agencies. MLBTR readers have consistently ignored those posts, which generally aren’t meaningful for those who don’t work in baseball. This information is also the source of much drama between agents, in which we have little interest. We do intend to make an exception and write a post when an agency change is a significant national story, like when Robinson Cano left Scott Boras for Jay-Z.
We’ve had an agency database for many years now, as it’s useful to our writers and a small subset of our readers. In 2021, I plan to update and maintain this database, make it mobile-friendly, add a change history, and include it as a feature of a Trade Rumors Front Office subscription.
SEPT. 22: The Cubs are optimistic Bryant won’t require an IL stint, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets.
SEPT. 21, 9:34pm: Bryant is day-to-day for now, though manager David Ross said he’s “worried” about the injury, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com tweets.
8:07pm: Cubs third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant left their game against the Pirates on Monday with right oblique tightness, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic was among those to report. The Cubs replaced Bryant with David Bote.
Any oblique issue to a regular is a red flag for a team, especially for a 31-22 Cubs club leading the NL Central by 3 1/2 games and nearing a playoff berth. It remains to be seen whether Bryant will play again this year, but it’s especially troubling that the three-time All-Star and former MVP hasn’t come anywhere close to his usual form this season. Bryant is hitting a woeful .195/.283/.301 with two home runs and a career-worst .106 ISO in 138 plate appearances.
Despite his uncharacteristic struggles this year, the Cubs obviously still want Bryant in their lineup on a daily basis. They’re on their way to the playoffs, after all, but however the postseason goes, the Cubs will have to decide in the offseason whether to keep Bryant, who was the subject of trade rumors last winter. He’s making a prorated $18.6MM in 2020 and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the ’21 campaign
As recently as June, the concept of an expanded Arizona Fall League was under consideration by Major League Baseball. But MLB has now decided to cancel the AFL’s 2020 season, Josh Norris of Baseball America reports.
The AFL is the latest baseball league to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cut this year’s major league season of 162 games to 60 and has canceled the minor league campaign.
Because there’s no minor league ball, teams have placed many of their best young players in their 60-man pool and allowed them to train at their alternate sites. Some of those players will enter their teams’ playoff bubbles or join the fall instructional league. That’s among the reasons there will not be an AFL season this year, per Norris, who adds that MLB had concerns over whether the AFL’s usual sites would have been equipped to handle all of the players, coaches and staff members on each team during a pandemic.
For now, the hope is that the coronavirus will not prevent the 2021 AFL season from occurring. The league’s planning on a normal year then with six teams of 35 players apiece, according to Norris.
Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner debuted in the majors in 2008, but it’s possible this will be the 37-year-old’s final season in the bigs. If it’s up to Gardner, though, that won’t be the case. He said Friday (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com) that he would “love to” play in 2021.
The Yankees, with whom Gardner has spent his entire career and racked up 37.3 fWAR, have a $10MM option over him for 2021, but it’s quite possible they’ll decline it in favor of a $2.5MM buyout. The club re-signed Gardner for a guaranteed $12.5MM after last season, in which he slashed .251/.325/.503 with a career-high 28 home runs and 10 stolen bases across 550 plate appearances, but he has since posted a .198/.333/.387 line with five homers and three steals over 135 PA.
While Gardner has started more games in left than any other Yankee this year, they’ll continue to have Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier in the fold as corner choices in a year. Either of those two or Giancarlo Stanton could be their No. 1 option at the position next season if Aaron Judge is able to man right on a regular basis. So, although he’s the longest-tenured Yankee, one of their heart-and-soul players and someone who has been rather productive throughout his career, Gardner could end up on the outs in the wake of a down season. However, even if the Yankees decline Gardner’s option, they could choose to bring him back on a more team-friendly deal.