Yesterday was Truck Day in the MLB, which means pitchers and catchers are soon to report and Spring Training is right around the corner. With all the big names on the market this off-season, everyone was anticipating a busy free agency period. Wrong. Those big names are still on the market, and there is very little noise. That is because MLB front office executives are winning free agency.
JD Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland, Logan Morrison, Jonathon Lucroy, Eduardo Nunez. Those are the names of some of the players still looking to sign a contract this off-season. Big names. How is it possible that these players have not signed with any team yet? That’s because MLB executives are ahead of the curve. Sabermetrics have become huge in baseball. We all know the Moneyball story. With GM’s and Baseball Operations people knowing the exact value these players will bring to their organization, they are not about to overpay them.
Look at the situation that has been happening since the Winter Meetings involving JD Martinez, his agent Scott Boras, and Dave Dombrowski of the Red Sox. Scott Boras thinks Martinez is worth a deal 7-year deal around $200 million total, at 30-years-old. Dave Dombrowski knows JD is not worth that to the team. His value does not equate to that deal. MLB executives have gotten so smart at finding the right value of a player based on their statistics, projections, and using equations. That is why we are currently seeing a staring contest between some of the biggest names in baseball and executives.
Spring Training is approaching and with all of these players still on the market, it’s only hurting themselves. Holding out until they receive exactly the contract they want is not working. We are finally seeing an executive-driven off-season rather than the players and agents getting their ways. These free agents have the potential to miss Spring Training, and although they are still working on their craft as they probably have been all off-season, missing out on Spring Training with a new team may lead to chemistry issues, performance issues, and just having the extra time to get comfortable with a new squad.
There is no market for free agents right now. The A-level players are still available, and teams aren’t going after the B-level free agents because the market has not been set. Todd Frazier just signed a very club-friendly deal with the New York Mets of 2-years, $17 million. Although Frazier was not one of the big name free agents, he was a B-level available player this off-season and the Mets got a steal because a similar position player in Moustakas has not yet signed, allowing Frazier’s price to be more than reasonable.
Maybe MLB organizations are holding out this off-season, just waiting for the the star-studded free agency class next year that includes the names of: Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Brian Dozier, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Daniel Murphy, AJ Pollock, Andrew McCutchen, DJ LeMahiue, Nelson Cruz, Zach Britton… The list goes on. That free agency class is elite. If I’m in the front office on an MLB organization, I’m not spending money prior to this season on the players available. Wait it out and work on your pitch throughout the entire season to land one of those franchise-changing studs next off-season.
There are still a lot of big name players on the board entering Spring Training. I believe that is because how smart MLB front office executives have been in finding the true value of players and not be willing to overpay for them. Sabermetrics and advanced statistics have taken over the game. Overvaluing players doesn’t happen as often because executives have found the formula. That is why this has been a Cold Stove off-season rather than the burning Hot Stove we all expected with the list of players available heading into this season. When these free agents eventually sign with a team, I cannot imagine the deals to be in the favor of the players. There is simply no market right now. GM’s have been insanely patient, and I believe the staring contest will go on until the players start blinking.