What I’m Hearing: With so many free agents on the market, what will the future look like for MLB USA TODAY
It wasn’t the bloodbath players and agents feared, but the free-agent marketplace became overstuffed Wednesday, with power-hitting left fielders feeling the brunt of baseball’s economic crunch.
There were a record 59 arbitration-eligible players non-tendered — three more than a year ago. There were 59 who signed one-year contracts. And two trades.
The Chicago Cubs non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, part of their core four of their 2016 World Series run. He hit 38 真人百家家乐官网网站homers two years ago, and has a career rate of 14.9 at-bats per 真人百家家乐官网网站home run – second only to Sammy Sosa (12.8) in Cubs history. But they worried about paying someone about $9 million after hitting .188 last year, particularly with no idea whether there will be a universal DH in 2021.
“Listen, he’s always going to be a Cubs legend," Cubs president Jed Hoyer told Chicago reporters. “That’s one of the things, when you and draft and develop these guys, you build meaningful relationships with those guys, and it makes those conversations that much harder.’’
The Minnesota Twins had about five teams express interest in Eddie Rosario, but no one was willing to pay about $10 million for the left fielder, even after hitting 119 真人百家家乐官网网站homers with 388 RBI since his 2015 debut. They placed him on outright waivers, he cleared in the afternoon and they did not offer him a contract, instead deciding to use the money for pitching, while giving prized rookie Alex Kirilloff the opportunity to take the position.
The Atlanta Braves have spent more than $30 million on free-agent pitching, but outfielder Adam Duvall, who hit 16 真人百家家乐官网网站homers – the fifth-most in MLB – was cut loose. The Chicago White Sox let right fielder Nomar Mazara walk away along with pitcher Carlos Rodon. The Colorado Rockies didn’t even want to spend about $2.5 million to retain injury-prone outfielder David Dahl, their former first-round pick and 2019 All-Star who has been limited to 201 games over the past three seasons. He could end making a GM look like a genius.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to guys, but there’s times when you have to for business reasons," Rockies GM Jeff Bridich said. "There were a combination of those sorts of business reasons at play here for these decisions, based on what’s going on in the industry."
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and games without fans, the industry lost about $3 billion last year, according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, and there is uncertainty for 2021.
It’s still unknown how arbitrators will view salary arbitration come February — whether they will act as if their 2020 stats in a shortened 60-game season even exist, and instead rely on their 2018 and 2019 seasons.
It may not even be until the spring, officials forecast, when anyone knows if there will be a universal DH. MLB officials will grant a DH if the union agrees to an expanded playoff format of 14 teams, but there has been little progress in their negotiations.
The cash-strapped Miami Marlins certainly gambled on a DH in the National League next year, bringing back slugger Jesus Aguilar on a one-year, $4.35 million contract with $150,000 in incentives.
Really, the only set of players protected by teams’ cost-cutting plans were starting pitchers. The New York Mets signed Steven Matz to a one-year, $5.2 million contract after going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA last year. The Rockies hung onto Jon Gray despite his 6.69 ERA last season. And the Philadelphia Phillies are staying with Vince Velasquez, who is 19-28 with a 4.99 ERA in the last four seasons.
There were 20 right-handed relievers who hit the market, led by Archie Bradley of the Cincinnati Reds. He was acquired for the stretch run, but the Reds didn’t want to pay perhaps as much as $5.7 million – as MLB Trade Rumors projected for arbitration – to a reliever who would be used as a setup man despite his 2.95 ERA since 2017.
It didn’t stop the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, however, from jumping on former closer Corey Knebel, knowing the Brewers were going to non-tender him. The Dodgers agreed to acquire him for cash or a player to be named later, despite his salary projected to be about $5 million after pitching only 13 ⅓ innings because of injuries since 2018.
There were a total of seven former top-10 picks who hit the marketplace.
“This is a nightmare for the players’ association," former pitcher Ron Darling said on MLB Network. “The one thing [former union chief] Marvin Miller never wanted was a glut of players out on the free agent market."
If you're a team in need of a third baseman, Maikel Franco or Travis Shaw may be the perfect cheap fits. Franco, non-tendered for the second consecutive year, played in every game last year with the Kansas City Royals, hitting eight 真人百家家乐官网网站homers with a .778 OPS. And Shaw – who averaged 32 真人百家家乐官网网站homers and 94 RBI in 2017 and 2018 with the Brewers – earned $4 million last year with the Toronto Blue Jays, hit six 真人百家家乐官网网站homers with a .717 OPS.
But no matter where you look or whatever your needs, there are now more than 200 free agents on the open market.
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