The free agent logjam may have been broken Thursday by the aggressive Brewers, who signed outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million deal on the same day they acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins.
The only major positional free agent who had signed prior to Cain was Jay Bruce, who took a three-year deal for $38 million with the Mets. Some believe it’s far less than what Bruce should have received.
A few relievers have signed, but mostly in the two- and three-year range.
Cain represented the most “normal” deal of the offseason.
Dodgers lefthander Rich Hill is one of many players concerned about the logjam in free agency. Hill has been going through his normal workouts in preparation for the season.
“How the free agent market has been going has been disconcerting this offseason and a lot of players are concerned about it,” Hill said. “That’s one thing I’m upset about and I know a lot of guys feel that way. The representation hasn’t been that great. I just feel baseball, especially values of the teams are extremely high. The equity in the players is going down. Players just want what’s fair.”
Hill’s right that Major League Baseball has gone from a $7 billion industry to $12 billion over the last decade.
“I consider myself very fortunate with the contract I signed (three years, $48 million) . . . but now it’s something that doesn’t seem very fair what’s going on and we’re only 2½ weeks from spring training and there are 110 free agents out there. It’s really bad,” Hill said.
Hill said that MLB’s pace of play discussion is “like a decoy to mask what’s going on with the free agent market.” Most players, including Hill, are against a 20-second pitch clock.
“There’s a huge major issue looming,” Hill said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? You have a guy like Logan Morrison out there who hit 38 homers. You’ve got great pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish out there and there’s been no movement on any of these guys.
“That’s something that needs to be addressed. You work so hard to get to free agency. You go through the ups and downs in the minors. You get there and, sorry, it’s not what you thought it was. It’s very concerning for a lot of guys.
“As we get close to spring training — we talk about the hot stove — this is going to be an inferno when spring training kicks off.”
“There’s a million excuses out there,” he added. “When we get to spring training, will everybody panic and sign? If you were supposed to receive a three- or a five-year deal, will you just sign a one-year deal? If that happens, I don’t know what the word is, but it’s disgusting to do that.”
Hill also sees where managers and coaches are put into a bind as they try to get their teams together.
“If the company has a good year and makes triple what they made the year before and the workers are doing their job well, you should pay them accordingly,” Hill said.
Hill also said the luxury tax penalties hurt players, giving teams a reason not to offer fair market contracts even though franchise values are so high.
Each team received about $33 million last year when the Disney Company purchased a streaming media technology created by MLB. And the new corporate tax structure (down to 21 percent) will benefit teams as well.
Hill wonders how many free agents will remain without jobs when spring training ends.
“There comes a time when your skills diminish and I understand that, but with 2½ weeks to go [until camps open], how many of those players won’t get signed? Last year’s [free agency] was bad, but this year was worse. It’s continuously going in the wrong direction for players.
“You put in all that time and effort to get to that point in your career. It takes a long time to get there. If you prove yourself as a valuable asset, you should reap the benefits of that. They’re grading out players differently now, and I understand the metrics of the game and I’ve benefited from them. But guys are good because they’re good. They can play at the highest level.”
Most of the big moves this offseason have come via trades. And the payroll-slashing Marlins have driven that market, sending Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals, Yelich to the Brewers, and Dee Gordon to the Mariners. They’re also likely to deal righty Dan Straily before spring training.
Hill is watching things closely. He feels his Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the World Series, will be right there again and hopefully win it this time.
The Dodgers have been pretty quiet this offseason. They sold off Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy to the Braves and got Matt Kemp back. They also signed reliever Tom Koehler.
Brian Cashman on our Season Ticket podcast
On this episode, the Yankees general manager joins host Chris Gasper to talk about his team’s offseason and the rejuvenated Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
SYMPATHY FOR JETER
Glavine would’ve done the same
Tom Glavine, whose ownership group lost to Derek Jeter’s in the bidding to buy the Marlins, had this advice for Jeter: “For the short term, just put on your earmuffs and execute your plan if it’s a plan that you truly believe in.”
Glavine added, “In the long term, I think Derek will be fine. He comes from a winning organization and I’m sure he’s picked up some things from that experience.”
Glavine said that if his group had purchased the Marlins, he probably wouldn’t have done anything differently than Jeter’s group other than improve the bad public relations during this transitional offseason.
“You don’t go into the business to perennially lose money,” Glavine said. “Depending who you talk to, they were losing a lot of money on a yearly basis. The only way to get that under control is to get your payroll under control, and everyone knew what that meant even though it’s an unpopular stance to have to take. We were of the same mind-set as to the moves that had to be made to get payroll under control.”
He added, “I think you can certainly question how they have handled it. I don’t think they’ve done themselves any favors from a PR standpoint, but in terms of business moves, I don’t know we would have done a whole lot different. We certainly targeted many of the same things. Obviously one contract stands out [Giancarlo Stanton’s], so I don’t think that would have been any different.”
Glavine said his group, which at one time included Tagg Romney, was in it until the “11th hour. We ended up having a really good chance of getting it. We just had one investor kind of change what he wanted to do and that was the nail in the coffin for us and Major League Baseball moved on.
“We had everything ready to go where it needed to be. We actually may have been the front-runner, but once the structure changed internally it changed things from MLB. If it had happened sooner, we could have rectified it. Major League Baseball was ready to move. I don’t blame them for acting on it.”
Glavine said he devoted two years to the process of gathering investors and changing up his group. While disappointed, he said he would do it all again in pursuit of another major league team.
Glavine remains active with the Braves as a broadcaster and spring training instructor, and one of his sons is a pitcher at Auburn University.
Glavine said the Braves should rebound from their international signing scandal, which cost then-general manager John Coppolella a lifetime ban by MLB. Glavine expects new GM Alex Anthopoulos to turn things around.
“Certainly everything they went through is a black eye,” Glavine said. “They lost money and prospects in the mix. In terms of what they’re doing at the big league level, they have good, young talent and one of the best, if not the best, minor league systems in baseball. They can develop those guys and get them in the big leagues or use them for more established major league talent in trades.
“They’re a ways away from being a contender in the NL East, but they’re moving in that direction.”
Glavine was also thrilled to see Chipper Jones join the growing Braves family in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jones, Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Bobby Cox, and John Schuerholz now represent the Braves dynasty from the 1990s to early 2000s in Cooperstown.
Apropos of nothing
1. The Brewers have certainly addressed their offensive needs by adding Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. There was a little surprise around baseball that Milwaukee invested so much in another hitter when it needs starting pitching help. Will the Brewers pay up for Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, or even Alex Cobb? Owner Mark Attanasio has already come too far to not go for it and try to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central.
2. Doug Gladstone and Rod Nelson have done tremendous work in exposing the injustice of MLB players who played prior to 1980 and didn’t accrue 43 service days to qualify for a pension. In their research, Gladstone and Nelson found 215 former players do not receive any pension from MLB under those circumstances, 649 players are receiving an annual payment through the agreement by the union in April 2011, and 146 players who were receiving a payment are now deceased. Players who accrued at least 43 service days after 1980 are currently guaranteed a pension of $34,000. The maximum pension is $220,000. However, the pension can’t be passed on to a beneficiary when the player dies.
3. The Giants and Yankees are at a point where they have to move money in order to add to their rosters. The Giants, who have already traded for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, still need a center fielder (recently signed Austin Jackson is viewed more as a fourth outfielder). The Yankees would like to add a starting pitcher but would need to move a contract to do so, preferably Jacoby Ellsbury, which will be a challenge for GM Brian Cashman. Cashman has Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield in the minors as viable options to fill out the rotation if needed.
4. Do the Marlins deal catcher J.T. Realmuto or do they build around him? Realmuto could bring back pitching prospects, which the Marlins desperately need. The Marlins’ other decision is on starter Dan Straily. He’s going to an arbitration hearing but is still affordable. Straily won’t bring back a top pitching prospect, so the feeling is the Marlins may be better off keeping him. The Marlins are going to need a few veteran players to fill positions. It’ll be interesting to see who falls to them on one-year deals with the promise they could be flipped at the trade deadline.
5. We’re waiting for the next splash to be made by Theo Epstein and the Cubs and it will likely come in the form of a front-line starter — either signing Darvish or re-signing Arrieta. Cobb could be another option given his relationship with Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay.
6. GM Dan Duquette reports that inquiries on Manny Machado have pretty much stopped and it appears Machado will be with the Orioles this season, at least until the trade deadline. Duquette, in search of pitching, indicated he’s not close to acquiring it entering the weekend.
7. Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton are now being shopped by the Brewers after they picked up Yelich and Cain, but can either outfielder bring an impact pitcher in return? The feeling is probably not, unless Milwaukee puts together a package. That leaves the Brewers likely having to sign a pitcher.
From the Bill Chuck files — “In 2016, the Red Sox had the second-fewest zero home-run games with 36 (13-23 record). In 2017, the Red Sox led the AL in games in which they did not homer (57) and went 24-33 in those games. In 2015, the Sox had 58 homerless games (19-39), the same number they had in 2012.” . . . Also, “Last season, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts each had at least one extra-base hit in 56 games. Martinez had 74 XBH and Betts had 72.” . . . Happy birthday, Phil Seibel (39) and Lyle Overbay (41).