Ryan L. Fox
Well folks Christmas is just a little over a week away and closing in face. I bet some of you are making a mad dash over to the nearest store, praying that they still have the hot holiday item in stock while others are staying pat for now and going to rely on some bargain gift (or a gift card if you’re feeling ‘daring’) and call it a day. Now take that train of thought and apply that to MLB free agency.
Huh? You’re saying that Christmas shopping and MLB free agency don’t have anything in common? Well, try to imagine yourself as a General Manager of an MLB franchise. The season has ended and you’re looking to try to snag the best free agent available on the market. You could go all in one some of the higher-priced free agents or you could settle for more of quantity a decent players to fill your team’s needs.
But with Christmas shopping, sometimes you try to wait until the price drops. In MLB Free agency, the price will increase depending on the contract a player receives. And like with Christmas shopping if you wait too long to pull the trigger, you’ll miss out on some of the hot free agents on the market.
Already over a month has passed since the start of free agency. While some teams have either been hesitant to pull the trigger or just relied on minor league signings, a few teams went out and began to spend spend spend on free agents.
The San Francisco Giants decided to bolster up their starting rotation behind their ace, 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner. First they went out and signed former Chicago White Sox SP Jeff Samardzjia to a 5 yr/$90 million, including a 2016 salary of $9 million, shoring up the back end of the rotation. Then the other day, San Francisco Giants decided to join and then agreed to sign Johnny Cueto to a 6 yr/$130 million with an opt-out option after year two. Pending on a physical, this could give the Giants a one-two punch with their pitching staff, which was the key to their three champion runs.
If you thought you had to compete with the Giants for getting some top grade pitching, you overlooked the team camped out at Yawkey Way. In his first year as General Manager, Dave Dombrowski made a huge splash earlier this month when he signed David Price to that monstrous contract (6 yr/$217 million with an opt out clause after year three). After that mega-deal, Dombrowski decided to shore up the Red Sox outfield at your Ocean State Job Lot by bringing in OF Chris Young (2 yr/ $13 million) to help against left-handed pitching (career .263 batting average and .362 OPS against lefties).
But it was the Arizona Diamondbacks who made the headlines when they brought in ex-Dodger Zach Grienke to the tune of 6 yrs/ $206.5 million, making him the highest paid player in MLB history (up to this date). Interestingly enough, the D’backs decided to defer $62.5 million of the contract to 2022-2026, giving them enough wiggle room now to sign other players and not pay out the nose due to the MLB luxury tax.
However in the end of the day, the big time spenders up to his point are the Chicago Cubs. After getting all the way to the NLCS on their young bats (i.e. 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo, OF Kyle Schwarber), they decided to mix some veteran presence with their youth. First they signed SP John Lackey to a 2 yr/$36 million, rejoining with his old Red Sox teammate Jon Lester. Then they outbid the New York Mets for the services of INF Ben Zobrist (contract was 4 yr/$56 million), adding a utility player who can give the likes of Bryant or Rizzo a dayoff so they aren’t burnt out in the playoffs. Then the other day, the Cubs signed OF Jason Heyward to the tune of an 8 yr/$184 million contract, making him the highest paid position player in the 2016 MLB Free Agent class.
The good news is that there’s still a few quality free agents out there if you’re still looking and needing that one piece (or several pieces) for your team.
First, you have two postseason heroes coming out of Queens, New York in the form of ex-Mets 2B Daniel Murphy (.281 14 HR & 73 RBI in ’15 including .328 7 HR & 11 RBIs in postseason) and OF Yoenis Cespedes (.291 35 HR & 105 RBIs in ’15 including .287 17 HR & 44 RBIs in 57 games with Mets). Then you have 1B Chris Davis, who hit 45+ HRs and 100+ RBIs in 2 of the past 3 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. That should appeal to some teams who need a big bat in the lineup. Then you have a slew of outfielders like power-hitter Dexter Fowler (last played with Chicago Cubs in 2015), defensive stalwart Alex Gordon (last played with Kansas City Royals), and the speedy Justin Upton (last played with San Diego Padres).
However on the flipside with starting pitchers, the cupboard is starting to look a little bare for that ‘ace’ teams wants. With the likes of Price, Grienke, Cueto, and even Jordan Zimmerman (signed a 5 yr/$110 million with the Detroit Tigers), you’re left with mid-rotation guys.
Still someone like Doug Fister (5-7, 4.19 ERA with the Washington Nationals in 2015), Wei-Yin Chen (11-8, 3.34 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles in 2015), Hiashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54 ERA with the Seattle Mariners in 2015), or Ian Kennedy (9-15, 4.28 ERA with the San Diego Padres in 2015) could come at a cheaper price that could fill in the middle or back end of your rotation. Or if you need a bullpen arm, there’s still guys like Tyler Clippard (5-4, 19 Saves, 2.92 ERA in 69 games in 2015) or Antonio Bastardo (4-1, 1 saves, 2.98 ERA in 66 games in 2015) available.
So you may have lost out on some of the top free agents right now but there's still plenty of quality free agents out their that can help to fill out the holes in your roster, giving you what you believe is going to be a 'championship caliber' team. But you could also be that one team who makes a splash in signing one of the remaining big name free agents out there (i.e. Murphy, Cespedes) or the team that goes out into the international market to bring in the hottest bat or pitcher (see Kenta Maeda of the Himura Carp). Best part of it all is that the MLB free agency still keeps on going till the beginning of the new MLB season. I guess one could say that MLB free agency is definitely most wonderful time of the year.
Support WBOB Sports