The MLB offseason has been underway for almost two months. Pitchers and catchers report in a little over a month and a half. We are just a few days away from 2018. And it feels like almost nothing has happened this offseason.
Well, sure, some things have happened. Shohei Ohtani picked the hated Angels as the team he will be playing for. Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees by the Marlins, who also shipped out Marcell Ozuna (to the Cardinals) and Dee Gordon (to the Mariners). Evan Longoria was traded to the Giants. The Dodgers shipped a lot of contracts for 2018 to the Braves in exchange for the same amount of money owed to Matt Kemp spread over 2018 and 2019. A minor run on second-tier relievers occurred right before Christmas.
Someone said that Ian Kinsler was also traded to the Angels, but I’m choosing to not believe that.
But for the most part, things have stagnated. On Jon Heyman’s list of the top 80 free agents, the top 10 are still available. Carlos Santana, #11 on Heyman’s list, was a surprise signing by the Philadelphia Phillies, and Zack Cozart (#12) went to the Angels to play third base, but after that, the highest ranked player on his list to sign is Mike Minor, who I’m pretty sure signed with Texas, though my brain has frozen over this winter so I could be wrong.
Honestly, so much time has elapsed this offseason — as I type this, it is the 56th day of the free agency period — that I keep thinking maybe I’m forgetting some moves, somehow. If you disregard Justin Upton — who basically re-did his deal with the Angels in lieu of opting out and actually becoming a free agent — the biggest deal any free agent has signed this offseason is Carlos Santana, at $60 million for three years. Tyler Chatwood and Zack Cozart are each at 3/$38M. And that Minor deal that I was kind of scoffing about earlier is actually the fourth biggest deal signed so far, at $28 million over 3 years (though Brandon Morrow’s 2/$21M deal has a higher AAV). That’s kind of nuts.
Supposedly, the Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani situations were holding everything up. Everyone wanted to see what happened with those two, and once that was resolved, well, the logjam would burst. Well, Ohtani was signed on December 9, and Stanton was traded on December 11, and we’ve seen little activity since then other than some middling relievers get signed.
No one has gotten more than three years in free agency. Only six players have gotten as many as three years. And as I mentioned above, where there has been activity, it has been in the second-tier and lower relief market. 28 players have signed guaranteed major league deals for more than one season, and of those 28, 16 of them are relievers (or 17 if you count Minor, or 18 if you count Mitch Moreland).
The big four starting pitchers -- Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb — are still on the market, as are the top bats -- Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and J.D. Martinez. Top closers Wade Davis and Greg Holland are still available. And not only are these players still available, there doesn’t even seem to be much activity surrounding them, not much in the way of rumors. Darvish met with some teams a few days ago, but nothing appears imminent there. People keep saying that the Red Sox are going to sign J.D. Martinez, but there doesn’t seem to be anything looming on that front.
Instead, we are going to January with pretty much every significant free agent still on the board, as we continue to play chicken into 2018. This is a fairly weak free agent class, but still, it is starting to border on the bizarre that there’s been so little movement yet. Some of that can be blamed, I guess, on the combination of the luxury tax cap and the huge 2018-19 free agent class -- the Yankees and Dodgers want to re-set their luxury tax penalty figures in advance of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and others hitting the open market, and thus are cutting payroll and staying out of the bidding for the top players. There’s also the fact that the Detroit Tigers are finally going into rebuilding mode, with owner Mike Ilitch having passed away, and the years of big contracts and win-now moves catching up on them...they have historically been willing to make a plunge on a big dollar free agent or two every offseason, but they appear to be sitting this one out.
And so we sit here, bored, not even getting juicy rumors to talk about, teams apparently willing to wait it out rather than pay premium prices for this particular free agent pool. And as a result, the offseason has stagnated, grown dull, as we wait for the dam to break and players to start agreeing to deals.
Because eventually that will have to happen. Todd Frazier isn’t going to go play in Japan. Jay Bruce isn’t going to go find a new profession. Teams still have needs to fill, players are going to need teams to play for, and we’ll end up seeing a frenzy in January of signings.
But in the meantime, its a dull holiday season for baseball fans.