The baseball offseason. Hot Stove season. My favorite free agency period of any of the 4 major American pro leagues. The buzz around it is awesome; endless speculations on where people will end up, and then a bombshell of a decision hits that can potentially shake up the league for years to come.
Normally, seeing that it’s February, most of the marquee free agents will have picked a landing spot for the next few years in their respective careers. However, that has simply not been the case this year. I can count on one hand the amount of significant moves made this offseason, which in the eyes of many, is a very bad thing.
Despite the lacking action seen so far, there are reasons behind why the Hot Stove has gone cold. Fortunately for the fans, players, and baseball as a whole, this should not be a regular occurrance.
So What Has Happened so Far?
The 2017-18 MLB offseason got rolling relatively early, with Shohei Ohtani announcing that he would be linking up with Mike Trout in Anaheim as a member of the Angels. This move surprised many; why the Angels instead of a team like the Yankees or the Dodgers?
To me, his reasoning sets off an alarm bell for one thing: he’s soft. Let’s be real here: the Angels are decent, maybe even a second wild card team with Ohtani, but they are nowhere near the cream of the crop. Why wouldn’t he want to join a team with a good, young core for years to come, with the shot of winning a title? I think the guy is soft, and he can’t handle the pressure of a big market.
After Ohtani came arguably the biggest move of the decade: Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.
Just reading that last sentence gets me excited. He’s really a Yankee. Giancarlo Stanton is a freakin’ Yankee.
The Yankees haven’t done anything this massive since the A-Rod deal. They’re bringing in a big-time slugger still in his prime to join forces with what appears to be an elite core. This move is not only good for the Yankees, but it’s good for baseball. Any time your biggest-market club is asserting itself as dominant, it just makes baseball more fun. They are Public Enemy #1 again, and it’s a great thing. No more are the likable 2017 Yankees. Now, welcome the 2018 Evil Empire that will out-homer the world.
Following Stanton was a very savvy move by the Cardinals in acquiring Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is quietly one of the best players in baseball. All he does is hit (.312, 37, 124), and if not for his ex-teammate, he would have a real chance at winning MVP. The Cardinals come away instantly with one of the best bats in the league who will be a centerpiece in the Gateway City for years to come.
After that? We wait…and we wait…and we wait…and we’re gonna wait some more…and more…and more…
Yeah, nothing happened for a month+ up until recently, the Brewers reshaped their outfield. Milwaukee signed Lorenzo Cain, and brought in Christian Yelich via trade. I LOVE these moves by Milwaukee. What was already an underratedly good lineup featuring Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw, just got a ton better.
Cain is also one of the best fielding center fielders in baseball, and he will immediately chip in on defense. Yelich is no slouch in the field, either, with a .997 fielding percentage in center for Miami.
With these moves, Milwaukee has just become one of the best sleeper teams to make a run this year. They didn’t miss the playoffs by much last season, and with largely the same core intact, may have taken that big leap to greatness.
Aaaaaaand that’s it. No other major moves. What a letdown…
Why the Lack of Action?
There are two main reasons why there’s this lack of signings and movement this offseason. One fortunately means that this should be an oddball of an offseason, but the other is kind of a wild card.
Talent Ain’t Great
The crop of free agents this offseason simply doesn’t have a marquee name attached to it like most do, which in baseball, doesn’t happen too often.
The two big ones are Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, and both have some red flags. Martinez is 30, is commanding a big contract, and has some injury history. Those three things should SCREAM bad idea to most teams, and frankly, I can’t say I blame them. With more and more general managers leaning away from big contracts given to veterans, a player (in this case Martinez’s) demands may not be met.
The Red Sox are supposedly in on him, but don’t want to give a 7-year deal to the veteran outfielder. If they can try and shave some money off the deal and sign him, that would be a huge bonus. The way the team is constructed, their window to win is within the next few years, so if they can bring him in and work some magic, then the money could be overlooked. With all the negatives having been said, there are a select few dinger-starved lineups in baseball who so badly crave his 40+ home run power.
The next big one is Hosmer. Hos had the best statistical season of his career, slashing .318 with 25 bombs and 94 RBI. His recipe for success is surprisingly hitting ground balls. The advanced metrics say that this shouldn’t work, but he makes it work nonetheless.
His glove is also stellar — he has been in the league since 2011 and already has four Gold Gloves.
Hosmer has earned a long contract. Despite what some advanced numbers may say, he does nothing but rake, and can field to boot. San Diego reportedly is in the mix for him, which is interesting because they aren’t really in a position to acquire premier talent via free agency.
With all of this being said, these problems should just pertain to a weak free agency class. In 2019, expect stuff to go off the rails.
Scott Boras is the agent for both aformentioned players, as well as a big agent for a bunch of premier players in the MLB. Generally, if a superstar hits free agency and is looking for a big deal, Boras is his agent. Boras has a reputation for being a bit of a money hog, often times getting teams to pay players more than they are worth (Jacoby Ellsbury, I look at you…).
In these situations here, if Boras’s clients aren’t getting the money they need, he will hold them out until they actually get paid. There’s a clear example of this with Martinez and the Red Sox. Boston wants to short Martinez, and Boras will have none of it. Eventually, the sides will likely compromise, but Boras holds all the cards here.
The reason why this could be a problem next year and years ahead is the same money game. If teams don’t pay up, they’ll hold out. Free agency is complicated; there’s a lot of factors and moving parts that change and that can attract or repel the opposing sides trying to reach a deal. Obviously, money is the biggest one. But, with Boras calling most of the shots, he could hold out a lot of his guys until they get that big deal, which at this rate, won’t be anytime soon.
Will all of the elite free agents find a home before Spring Training? In all likelihood, yes. Nobody would be that dumb to let solid players walk for nothing. But, that doesn’t excuse how much of a problem this offseason has been for the sport as a whole. Here’s to hoping 2019 brings a hotter stove, and Bryce Harper to the Bronx…
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