Yelling About the Offseason

So the baseball hot stove has been pretty, well, cold this offszn. Some medium-sized trades/deals/swaps were made during the winter meetings, but since then, not much has been done.

I read an article on The Ringer last week during my lunch that talked about the lack of any big happenings during his offseason. It’s a long read but a good one if you have the time. It talks about:

  • Free agency and how many free agents are signing later in the offseason and for less
  • How young players are held down in the minors longer to push back the age at which they would reach free agency
  • How revenues in the Majors have reached record highs but aren’t changing how teams spend money on players
  • Arbitration
  • How the CBA runs out in 2021 and the risk of a baseball stoppage

(Oh, and how Giancarlo Mike Stanton was signed by the Miami Marlins to a 13 year/$325 MILLION contract in 2014… before he was traded to the Yankees for 2018 for a salary dump. The Yanks owe him $265 million. That sucks. Because he sucks.)

Meanwhile, they used the fact young players are underpaid at the start of their careers as leverage to encourage players to sign below-market contracts through arbitration and into what would have been their first few years of free agency, pushing back the age at which stars like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Christian Yelich, and José Altuve hit the market, reducing their free-agent value even further.

Michael Baumann, The Ringer

There’s this thought that once a player his free agency—which could be at age 30 if they start in the majors at age 24 (players have to have six years of playing under their belt before becoming a free agent)—his best years are behind him. Thus why teams won’t pay out the millions that some of these players are owed because of their talent.

Players can go to arbitration over their salaries when they have at least three full seasons of MLB service time and less than six—which is when they would go into free agency. Players with less than six years are under team control and can bring their salary to an arbitration panel if they can’t come to an agreement with their team. And, probably to no one’s surprise, arbitration panels are “old school, and tend to make their decisions based on player comparisons and traditional statistics like RBIs and wins” (Fangraphs). For example, Mookie Betts has five years of playing time and recently went to arbitration with the Boston Red Sox. The two settled on $20 million for the 2019 season, which after Betts will be a free agent. (I’ll cry if he leaves.)

One thing I often yell about a lot is that older players don’t need 10-year contracts, because nine times out of ten, they don’t work:

The growth of quantitative analysis in baseball in the 21st century has shown that older free agents are a bad investment, at least on the aggregate. Giving out contracts like the ones Pujols, Greinke, and others received just a few years ago is now simply seen as bad business, an inefficient allocation of resources.

Michael Baumann, The Ringer

Long term contracts, at least in recent years, don’t seem to give the return on investment the teams are probably looking for. Because players are hitting free agency at ages later than say 26-year-olds Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

The Chicago White Sox have offered a seven year/$175 million contract to Manny Machado. Rumor has it that there’s another team—the Philadelphia Phillies—in talks with Machado. I think that either team is dumb enough to pay that much for him.

I feel like he was playing under the radar with the Baltimore Orioles, and the only reason I suddenly knew who he was was because of the fighting the Sox/O’s had in 2017. I laughed when he got dumped to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, and I laughed, even more, when he struck out for the final out of the World Series against Chris Sale, who was in to close out the game.

The O’s knew he was going to hit free agency at the end of the 2018 season and at least wanted something in return for him in an attempt to try to rebuild the team. (They got five players in exchange for Machado.) From glancing at his Baseball Reference page, he’s a career .282 hitter with 175 home runs, 513 RBIs, an .822 OPS, and only cleated one Red Sox player. Those seem like average numbers to me.

And don’t forget that Bryce Harper is still floating around in the free agency pool. (Not to be confused with the pool at Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play wearing one of those eight awfully designed uniforms they probably paid the same amount for that they paid for Zach Grienke’s six year/$206.5 MILLION deal in 2015.)

Harper is a career .279 hitter with 184 home runs, 521 RBIs, and a .900 OPS in his seven-year career, all with the Washington Nationals. I’m no baseball agent but looking at his numbers on Baseball Reference, he seems pretty average. A good, consistent outfielder, but not one who deserves the $200 million or whatever extremely ridiculous price Harper is looking for. I’ve always thought he was over-hyped, and I’ve never liked him. Yeah, he made it to the majors when he was 19, but he’s a slightly above average player.

These two seem to have the Taylor Swift problem: “I got issues and chips on both of my shoulders/Reputation precedes me, in rumors I’m knee deep.” (Although Ed Sheeran sang that part in “End Game.”) If they had absolutely amazing numbers, then they’d let the numbers talk for themselves. But I feel like they’re just known because of who they are. Young guys who started their careers when they were 19 and are considered the future of the MLB.

I’d take J.D. Martinez and his five year/$110 million contract any day over Machado or Harper. Martinez has hit over .300 since 2014, has had an OPS over 1.000 the last two seasons, and had over 100 RBIs in 2015, 2017, and 2018. He flew under the radar when he came up with the Houston Astros, began to get more recognition when eh was with the Detroit Tigers, and there was a J.D. Martinez daily watch after he went to free agency after his half a season with the Diamondbacks.

So spring training begins in less than a month for the MLB, and here are some of the free agent players who currently don’t have a job:

  • Manny Machado
  • Bryce Harper
  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Dallas Keuchel
  • A.J. Pollock

I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I’m interested to see what happens. No one should be getting a long term deal—like the six years Kimbrel is looking for as a closer. Give them four or five years at the most, and don’t get too caught up in the hype.

6 comments

  1. I appreciated that reference to the pool at Chase Field and the Diamondbacks horrendous jerseys. I went to see them play when they were in Toronto a few years ago. My eyes have yet to recover.

    I think teams are realizing that in the grand scheme of things, one player doesn’t have THAT MUCH influence on a team, so paying them a ridiculous amount of money is dumb, especially when you have Oakland sneaking into the playoff paying a bunch of nobodies less than $3 million.

    In the past, so many teams paid guys based on what they had done in their career, rather than what they would do in the future. All these guys are having their best years while stuck in their arbitration years which is their own fault when they negotiated the last CBA. Realistically, the best years of their career aren’t going to be Year 7 and onward. Players should just try and find supplemental income from endorsements or something, if they’re insulted by only making $100 million instead of $200 million.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. I used to yell a lot about the jerseys when they first came out. They’re very ugly.

      Yeah, it’s like not just one player can lead the team, no matter how much the players like to think that they can save everything. You can’t be successful on the back of just one player who’s looking for a ridiculous contract.

      I’m not sure if I missed this day in “Baseball Contact Neogiations 101” but why are players/agents looking for such large numbers? Take the $175 million Machado was offered. Where is that number coming from? Is it like a supply and demand thing? Or is it because the teams are making so much in revenue the players think they can get paid more? Like I get reasonable contracts, like 4 years/$40 million at $10 million a season, but the 7 year/$175 million the White Sox offered? That’s $25 million a year. And it’s not like players are still making league minimum by the time they reach free agency. Betts is making $20 million this year, so it’s not like they’re looking for a raise upon release into free agency. I hope any of that made sense?

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I never understand about bad jerseys is that a whole bunch of people had to approve of them and they were probably run by a focus group too with glowing reviews. That is so crazy to me.

        Exactly – Some of the best players never make it to the playoffs because they’re the only star on the team.

        I think the large numbers are a result of Scott Boras being vocal about how greedy he wants to be. Also, players will compare themselves to other guys who got big contracts and say “Well, if Mike Stanton can get $325 million from a team he’s won nothing with, and my numbers are better than his, why can’t I get the same, if not more?” So it’s guys like M. Station who basically blow the market out of proportion and then everyone else who comes along doesn’t find it fair to be making less than him. Meanwhile, teams are getting smart about it because HELLO, YOU DON’T SIGN SOMEONE FOR 13 YEARS

        Liked by 1 person

      • And why get eight of them? Like get a new home and away one and maybe a third for fun. But eight seems very unnecessary.

        So this is basically all his fault then. But why are teams offering $325 million contracts in the first place? So they can say, “Hey we signed a free agent for the most money ever!!! We’re winning the World Series this year!!!” And maybe use it as marketing? It just takes one guy to sign some ridiculous contract and one team to be stupid enough to do it and then it doesn’t work and it encourages everyone else to ask for numbers like that when it’s not reasonable. I do think part of it goes back to knowing the teams are making SO much money and players thinking they’ll get paid more but instead the teams jack up ticket prices and stuff like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Is it really eight? I thought you were just exaggerating. Geeeesh.

        I think you’re right about the money aspect. Also, I feel like Miami probably had to overpay Stanton just to convince him to stay because the team was bad and he would be forced to stare at that statue in centre field every day. I think Stanton knew that he could use them to get the huge deal and if things don’t work out, someone would take him in a trade regardless of money.

        Like

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