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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Free agency isn’t really dying. But it is definitely changing | MLB.com

There will always be free agents. Maybe not as many 27 year-old free agents, but for teams wanting to make a splash, guys like Josh Hamilton will always be around.

Jim Furtado Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:44 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: economics, jay bruce, reds

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   1. bobm Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:57 AM (#4406550)
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130405&content_id=43939864
&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb&ei=v2xhUaatNpLH4AO_7YHwAw&usg;=
AFQjCNGcLamxM19OKQv4wLSiDdyrkl49Sw&bvm=bv.44770516,d.dmg
   2. bobm Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:12 AM (#4406554)
Other recent articles on this topic:

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/4/2/4173738/is-free-agency-on-its-deathbed

Players that hit free agency are still likely going to fetch decent money but the best players aren't going to be available. It's a growing trend that players are fetching long-term extensions that keeps them on their respective teams during their prime production years. Just look at the players that will be available to throw money at after this season. Barring extensions between now and then, there will be only nine players available that are under 30. Of them, only Phil Hughes has had a season worth more than 2 fWAR since 2009, though there are some high upside players such as Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann who will be just entering their 30's.


http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/56604/verlander-posey-and-the-death-of-free-agency

In just the past year, we've seen an All-Star team worth of talent sign multi-year extensions that took them off other teams' radar. We've mentioned Verlander, Posey, and Hernandez. There's also Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, David Wright, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Adam Wainwright, Madison Bumgarner, Adam Jones, Brandon Phillips, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, and many others (plus Yadier Molina, Matt Moore, and a bunch more, if we want to go back a few more months). Late Sunday night came yet another big headline: Per Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers were close to signing Elvis Andrus, the All-Star shortstop two years away from testing the open market, to an eight-year, $120 million extension. If a prime Scott Boras client punting on six years of negotiating rights doesn't convince you that free agency is heading the way of the Dodo bird, nothing will. [...]

But really, what we might see is a renewed emphasis on scouting, drafting, and player development, not just for smaller-revenue clubs, but also the big boys.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:28 AM (#4406566)
How is Lincecum over 30? He was drafted in '06 as a college junior.
   4. Tricky Dick Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4406569)
The cost of locking up young star players is growing. Whereas we used to call these contracts "team friendly," they are more likely to be market priced in the future, perhaps requiring above market prices for some players. I think this process can be a limiting factor that prevents free agency "heading the way of the Dodo bird." Also, since almost all organizations will have "holes" in their roster that need to be filled, there will always be a need for the free agent market. I wonder if this trend will result in higher salaries for mid-level or journeymen players on the free agent market, since the supply of available players will be lower.
   5. John Northey Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4406570)
It has always been rare for true superstars in their 20's to become free agents. Whenever one does we see a feeding frenzy. A-Rod getting $250+, Bobby Bonilla doing a nationwide tour in the early 90's, Barry Bonds signing a record deal shortly after that. Those are a few that come to mind. I checked a few others but they were past 30 (Carlton Fisk for example). Strangely Greg Maddux doesn't appear to have had the same jump in pay when he went from the Cubs to Atlanta...might have been him just wanting to win back then.
   6. Drexl Spivey Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:39 AM (#4406572)
"Remember Shrinky Dinks?" said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, referring to the once-popular plastic sheets kids could put in the oven and shrink to small plates. "That's the free-agent market. It's the way of the world now."


I look forward to calling next year's free agent market the "Shrinky Dink" market.

Hypothetical exchange: "Is Josh Johnson an impending Shrinky Dink?" Why yes, yes he is.
   7. bobm Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4406576)
[3] How is Lincecum over 30? He was drafted in '06 as a college junior.

Tim Lincecum [...] who will be just entering their 30's.


From B-R:

Tim Lincecum
Born: June 15, 1984 in Bellevue, WA


Age -- Player’s age at midnight of June 30th of that year
   8. BDC Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4406586)
Needless to say, if player salaries keep growing and young stars do better out of signing with their current clubs than playing the open market, free agency continues to do what the players and their union want it to do.

One dynamic here might be that there are a lot more mid-market clubs now able to sign guys to handsome contracts. Seems like, ten years ago, you signed a splendiferous deal with the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, couple of others at most; now, these long-term deals might be as much the province of the Rockies or Reds as anyone else. There are still a few beggars and misers around, but there's a lot of money spread lavishly and generally.
   9. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 07, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4406662)
Whereas we used to call these contracts "team friendly," they are more likely to be market priced in the future, perhaps requiring above market prices for some players


Ridiculous, no team is that dumb.

Ryan Howard told me he would have got $300m as a free agent, 8/$180 was just his way of giving back to the fans.
   10. RJ in TO Posted: April 07, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4406712)
Strangely Greg Maddux doesn't appear to have had the same jump in pay when he went from the Cubs to Atlanta...might have been him just wanting to win back then.

Maddux turned down more money from the Yankees to sign with Atlanta.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: April 07, 2013 at 05:23 PM (#4406967)
Posey, and Hernandez. There's also Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, David Wright, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Adam Wainwright, Madison Bumgarner, Adam Jones, Brandon Phillips, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale,

Some of those names are not like the others. OK, in all sorts of ways but...

Goldschmidt had just 1 year of service time and wouldn't have been an FA until after the 2017 season anyway ... he wasn't on any team's radar and the deal only buys out 1 year (with 1 option) of his FA. Sale had just 2 years and his deal buys out 1 year of FA (with 2 options). Santana appears to be a super-2 and not an FA until the 2017 offseason and his deal only buys out his pre-FA years with 1 option. Bumgarner the same.

Those deals aren't particularly unusual at all, buyouts have been fairly standard practice at least since John Hart started rolling them out for the late 90s Indians. The unusual ones are:

Votto and Andrus (is this official yet?) where they are getting very long contracts while still years away from FA.
Wright, Braun, etc.: the "double dip" where they are extended while in the middle of their original buyout contract.

It's true that we didn't see pre-30 FA very often in the past either. What's different about this world is that we won't be seeing many outstanding early 30s FAs in the future, at least for position players. Hamilton is obviously a unique case because of his history but the alternate universe Hamilton who never got into trouble got wrapped up through age 35-36 2-4 years ago and never became an FA. The Andrus contract may be a sign that they are extending the pool of players they're willing to offer these deals to -- he's a good player, not an outstanding one but they are willing to commit 10 years to him.

And jiminy Christmas -- welcome to the party writers and bloggers, I've only been pointing this out regularly for about 18 months now.
   12. JJ1986 Posted: April 07, 2013 at 05:28 PM (#4406980)
Tim Lincecum
Born: June 15, 1984 in Bellevue, WA


Which means he will be under 30 his entire free agency period, making

Of (players available under 30), only Phil Hughes has had a season worth more than 2 fWAR since 2009


a falsehood.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 05:30 PM (#4406983)
One dynamic here might be that there are a lot more mid-market clubs now able to sign guys to handsome contracts. Seems like, ten years ago, you signed a splendiferous deal with the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, couple of others at most; now, these long-term deals might be as much the province of the Rockies or Reds as anyone else. There are still a few beggars and misers around, but there's a lot of money spread lavishly and generally.

This is the key to the dynamic.

With the massive growth of shared revenue (National TV and Cable deals MLBAM), plus revenue sharing, every team can now afford $100M payroll. Some choose not to, b/c their owners prefer profits, but they all can.

However, the small and middle market teams know that if they let a great player get to FA, the big boys will still outbid them, b/c they're printing money even more than the smaller markets. So if they want to spend their new found money on great players, rather than merely good ones, they have to lock up their stars early.

The Andrus contract may be a sign that they are extending the pool of players they're willing to offer these deals to -- he's a good player, not an outstanding one but they are willing to commit 10 years to him.

But if they do this (sign long extensions to merely good players rather than only stars), we'll start seeing a lot of those contracts bust, which will temper the market.

   14. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 06:50 PM (#4407089)
However, the small and middle market teams know that if they let a great player get to FA, the big boys will still outbid them, b/c they're printing money even more than the smaller markets. So if they want to spend their new found money on great players, rather than merely good ones, they have to lock up their stars early.


Which is great. I love teams telling the fans that they will have their favorite players around for a long period of time. I think it can help in jersey sales, ticket sales, fan loyalty etc(minutely of course) but it signals to the fans that I'm allowed to get emotionally vested into player B because he's going to be around for a while. I know plenty of fans who have asked me what uniform they should get (besides Pujols/Molina) for the Cardinals that they won't regret a year later. These type of deals help in that matter.

But if they do this (sign long extensions to merely good players rather than only stars), we'll start seeing a lot of those contracts bust, which will temper the market.


I don't think these would be the same type of busts as you would get by signing a free agent from outside your organization. You are signing guys who you know intimately(health, attitude etc) who are still young and if they become busts will still probably provide value(just not all star value) etc. Ultimately I think these deals are lower risks than true free agent deals.
   15. John Northey Posted: April 07, 2013 at 06:56 PM (#4407096)
Well, unless the player signs in Miami in which case you know that jersey you bought will be out of date in a year...
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:02 PM (#4407102)
I don't think these would be the same type of busts as you would get by signing a free agent from outside your organization. You are signing guys who you know intimately(health, attitude etc) who are still young and if they become busts will still probably provide value(just not all star value) etc. Ultimately I think these deals are lower risks than true free agent deals.

Lower risk, but also lower reward. You're committing financial resources on talent you already control for multiple years. The Andrus contract will provide zero value to Texas over the next two years.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:10 PM (#4407106)
Well, unless the player signs in Miami in which case you know that jersey you bought will be out of date in a year...


I honestly thought about putting in a Miami disclaimer, but figured that was something that should be assumed.

Lower risk, but also lower reward. You're committing financial resources on talent you already control for multiple years. The Andrus contract will provide zero value to Texas over the next two years.


Agreed. Provided there isn't an explosion of pay because of increased TV money. I think teams that get these players to sign these type of contracts are happy with the certainty it affords in the future. You know who is playing at several positions over the next few years and how much it's going to cost. You just hope that they don't flame out, but if Andrus becomes a 3 war per year over the life of the contract, it's not that big of a loss. I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that is probably the bottom of what you'll get out of him.
   18. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:11 PM (#4407107)
At some point (maybe some point very soon), long-term extensions will become too expensive for teams and signing FAs will become financially reasonable. And so it goes...
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:18 PM (#4407111)
You just hope that they don't flame out, but if Andrus becomes a 3 war per year over the life of the contract, it's not that big of a loss. I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that is probably the bottom of what you'll get out of him.

Really? If you're generous, and say his current level of ability is 4 WAR, it's hard to say the bottom is 3.

If his hitting doesn't develop, and he loses a step or two on defense and the bases (either through injury or age) he could be averagish pretty easily.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:27 PM (#4407115)
Really? If you're generous, and say his current level of ability is 4 WAR, it's hard to say the bottom is 3.


I just don't see an established 23 year old major league player regressing below that point. It can happen of course, (anything can obviously) but I think that Andrus is a safe bet to average better than 3 war per 150 games played over the next 5 years. (and realistically probably 4 as a reasonable bet)
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:33 PM (#4407118)
deleted..wrong thread.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 07:42 PM (#4407123)

I just don't see an established 23 year old major league player regressing below that point. It can happen of course, (anything can obviously) but I think that Andrus is a safe bet to average better than 3 war per 150 games played over the next 5 years. (and realistically probably 4 as a reasonable bet)


There are some cautionary tales among MIs: Chris Spiers, Tony Kubek, Ozzie Guillen, Rennie Stennett.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:06 PM (#4407130)
There are some cautionary tales among MIs: Chris Spiers, Tony Kubek, Ozzie Guillen, Rennie Stennett.


There should be examples on any type of signing. I have no idea if the signing was good or bad, I just find it hard to believe that any signing of this type is going to fall into the level of a Gary Mathews Jr level of bad. The biggest signing of this type that is a "failure" so far has been the Ryan Howard (and that is a stretch to really compare it to the Andrus signing).

So far we really don't have the data on these type of signings to compare bad to good, I just personally like teams making the commitment, and think that the inside knowledge is beneficial, and the reduction of the stress of worrying about your future with the team is helpful to developing players.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4407131)
There should be examples on any type of signing. I have no idea if the signing was good or bad, I just find it hard to believe that any signing of this type is going to fall into the level of a Gary Mathews Jr level of bad. The biggest signing of this type that is a "failure" so far has been the Ryan Howard (and that is a stretch to really compare it to the Andrus signing).

So far we really don't have the data on these type of signings to compare bad to good, I just personally like teams making the commitment, and think that the inside knowledge is beneficial, and the reduction of the stress of worrying about your future with the team is helpful to developing players.


I'm just saying there's history of hotshot 3-4 WAR young IFs collapsing.
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:24 PM (#4407138)
I'm just saying there's history of hotshot 3-4 WAR young IFs collapsing.


I understand, just as there are history of a lot of things happening. There is always risk involved in any situation, but I think that the Andrus signing is a pretty safe bet. This isn't like the Cardinals signing of a 28 year old player to a 5 year 31 mil, where you are hoping that the guy's future years he doesn't fall apart. You are talking about signing a guy who has produced 3 seasons of over 3 war 3 times in his career before his age 24 season. (Other players who can say that since 1970...Templeton, Yount, Arod, Jeter, Hanley, Ripken, and Trammell. Yes some cautionary tales in there, and of course cherry picked stats etc..) Has shown improvement each of the years in the majors with the bat. (I think of Elvis the same way I thought of Yadier when he got to the majors, arguably brought up too soon, but feel that the makeup and the skills are there to eventually translate into a high quality player, difference is that the numbers already realize that Andrus is a quality player)

   26. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 08:46 PM (#4407147)
That before age 24 season is doing a lot of lifting in there. Andrus has an August birthday. He's already 24 and 8 months.

This list is all 2B/SS who had between 9 and 16 WAR through age 24, with Batting Runs <0.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/season_finder.cgi?type=b#ajax_result_table::none

There's some great careers, but some real collapses too.

Committing big money to a guy for 10 years is never safe.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:03 PM (#4407150)
Committing big money to a guy for 10 years is never safe.


Agreed. Heck committing money for one year is never safe... I just don't see the high risk that others see here. This isn't a blatantly dumb signing. This isn't even a high risk signing, it's a normal risk signing and that is about it.

   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 07, 2013 at 09:54 PM (#4407174)
Agreed. Heck committing money for one year is never safe... I just don't see the high risk that others see here. This isn't a blatantly dumb signing. This isn't even a high risk signing, it's a normal risk signing and that is about it.


It's a 10-year commitment to a non-elite player, and 10 year commitments are going to be high risk.

I think what turns me and other against it is this blocks a guy who looks to be a better SS. Profar's mLB numbers dwarf Andrus': AA 127 wRC+ vs 93, A 142 wRC+ vs ~94.

Andrus should have been used as trade bait to fill holes at 1B, OF or P.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: April 07, 2013 at 11:20 PM (#4407211)
But if they do this (sign long extensions to merely good players rather than only stars), we'll start seeing a lot of those contracts bust, which will temper the market.

Eventually one would assume yes. First, who knows if Andrus is the start of a trend or not? But lets' assume he is and we shift from guys like this signing away 3 arb years and 2 FA years to signing away 3 arb years and 5-7 FA years. Barring complete collapses from almost all of them, those contracts won't be "busts" for another 6-8 years and teams will have had another 6 years worth of these contract commitments so it might be 10-15 years before you actually see the swing back have any effect.

I'm more with cfb on Andrus's future and the "reasonableness" of this contract. I mean, I think it's sub-optimal and I don't think I'd have ever done it in the Rangers' shoes but I think the chance of a disaster is fairly slim. It's the Profar bit that really makes it a head-scratcher.
   30. McCoy Posted: April 07, 2013 at 11:23 PM (#4407213)
Terrance Long and Ramon Hernandez.
   31. Dan Posted: April 08, 2013 at 12:16 AM (#4407223)
Andrus should have been used as trade bait to fill holes at 1B, OF or P.


Sure, but Profar probably fetches David Price. Andrus isn't really as appealing to a team looking to trade a star to save money. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see a package built around Profar fetch Price or Stanton this offseason.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: April 08, 2013 at 01:02 AM (#4407234)
I'm more with cfb on Andrus's future and the "reasonableness" of this contract. I mean, I think it's sub-optimal and I don't think I'd have ever done it in the Rangers' shoes but I think the chance of a disaster is fairly slim. It's the Profar bit that really makes it a head-scratcher.


That bolded part is the reason I can understand why Ranger fans are upset or questioning the move. General rule is of course you go with what you have and not worry about what is coming up, but Profar is so close to being ready that you could wait a year to see what develops.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: April 08, 2013 at 01:15 AM (#4407236)
Terrance Long and Ramon Hernandez.

Are two baseball players?
Were teammates?
Never met a man they didn't like?

it's a normal risk signing and that is about it.

I was for cfb before I was agin' 'im. I missed this bit earlier. I wouldn't go this far. Nobody's committed 10 years to a player this marginal since Wayne Garland. So it ain't normal risk. I really can't justify the length ... really, they needed to extend by 8 years? Now with nobody bidding against them and a hotshot prospect in the wings? I just don't believe -- they did take on substantially more risk than they needed to (as in probably 4 years). I think they're of the opinion he's gonna be something pretty special or at least still be putting up 3 WAR in his early 30s.

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