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Sunday, November 11, 2018

It’s not just the worst teams not spending money in baseball free agency — it’s the richest, too

CARLSBAD, Calif. – During the great panic of 2017-18, when jobless players were jumping on conference calls and asking one another what the hell happened to free agency, the Major League Baseball Players Association tried to allay fears by pointing toward the future. It wasn’t particularly satisfactory for those lacking employment, but the 2018-19 offseason, players were told, shouldn’t be like this.

The New York Yankees, the game’s financial behemoth, would dip below the $197 million competitive-balance-tax threshold – lawyer-speak for the luxury tax – to reset the penalty for their years of profligacy. Surely they would spend. And the Los Angeles Dodgers, who used 2017 to escape CBT jail, too, would leap back into the market ready to reinvest their hoard of local television money.

However reasonable those assumptions may have been, the early indications given by the Yankees, Dodgers and the team with baseball’s third-highest revenues, the Chicago Cubs, do not portend an offseason of free-flowing cash from the game’s financial titans. Perhaps it is simply early-winter posturing, and by the time Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and the rest of the free-agent class of 2018-19 is locked up all will be well again. Subterfuge, after all, is one of baseball’s time-honored traditions.

So, how do we interpret this state of affairs?

QLE Posted: November 11, 2018 at 06:56 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dollah dollah bills, y'all, free agency, offseason, spending

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. The Duke Posted: November 11, 2018 at 12:11 PM (#5785682)
1. The union took its eye off the ball in the last negotiations and got “taken” by the owners
2. Spring training is meaningful - after so many late signers tanked, players and owners will want to deal early
3. GMs just don’t pay for past results anymore meaning most people who reach free agency are already declining and the GMs know it.
4. It’s better to go all-In at the trade deadline than in the winter.
5. The influx of Latam and Asian talent and the 10 day DL is subtley altering supply and demand and it’s pushing down the marginal salary ( or maybe better said, reducing the rate of growth of the marginal salary).
   2. JRVJ Posted: November 11, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5785686)
The Yankees (and Dodgers) may SAY that they won't spend any money, but the jury is out on whether the won't.

The Phillies will surely get at least 2 out of the elite FAs (one of Machado or Harper and one of the FA pitchers).

I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros also spend some money this off-season, even if only to re-sign Charlie Morton and maybe even Marwin González (I don't see them signing Keuchel).
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: November 11, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5785701)
There is going to be plenty of spending out there, just maybe not from the same teams everyone is used to seeing, if the Nationals lose out on Harper, I don't think they are taking their money and going home, but instead will put that planned money on Harper to use to fill up needs. Especially with the Phillies planning on spending big this off season, and the Braves probably being truly competitive. Cardinals will probably end up with one of the big names, or at least in on the final bids and I find it weird that they aren't listed as among the favorites to get Kimbrel. I get Machado and Harper not signing with them, but their clear biggest need going into the off season last year was reliable relief pitching, and that is still the case. Jordan Hicks needs more seasoning and was originally projected to be a starter and he's too young right now to remove that potential. I can definitely see the team over paying for Kimbrel.

   4. winnipegwhip Posted: November 11, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5785797)
I think the Lerners have figured some method of taking their personal wealth with them when they pass.
   5. McCoy Posted: November 11, 2018 at 08:19 PM (#5785806)
The nationals were one of two teams over the cap last year so they are willing to spend money. They won 82 games and are losing Harper. It’s probably wise to pause on purchases and see what you have. Why throw 30 million at somebody if you’re 4 years away from contending?
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: November 11, 2018 at 08:38 PM (#5785812)
Why throw 30 million at somebody if you’re 4 years away from contending?


Because they aren't 4 years away from contending, Harper produced 1.3 war for them last year, their pyth was 90 wins last season, that loss of 2 wins is not really something that means they are noncompetitive for the next four years. They'll still have Scherzer, Rendon, Strasburg, Turner and Soto for a couple of more years, along with Robles... that is a very good core of players.
   7. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 06:28 AM (#5785855)
They had all those guys and won 82 games and had a pyth of 90. Now they are a year older and some were hurt.
   8. bfan Posted: November 12, 2018 at 08:08 AM (#5785859)
I think the Lerners have figured some method of taking their personal wealth with them when they pass.


Yes, when they should be squandering it on players who do not perform up to their salary, just so they can become poorer at the expense of others. There have been too many busts of older guys getting long-term deals and having that salary be a drag on a team's payroll for years after they are no longer productive.

How many Jason Werth's does it take to learn your lesson? They just wrote his last check 2 months ago; do we think they have forgotten that, already?
   9. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 08:42 AM (#5785864)
Yes, when they should be squandering it on players who do not perform up to their salary, just so they can become poorer at the expense of others.


Drake weighs in. I had no idea he was a baseball fan.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:19 AM (#5785914)
They had all those guys and won 82 games and had a pyth of 90. Now they are a year older and some were hurt.

They didn't have Robles, and Strasburg missed half a season. Also, being a year older is a good thing for Soto, Robles, and Turner.

I think they're still as good as any team in the NL East.
   11. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:27 AM (#5785927)
Yeah, Strasburg is part of the "some were hurt". Penciling in Strasburg for a full healthy season is folly. While a year old is a good thing for Soto and Robles it is a bad thing for Scherzer, Roark, and Zimmerman.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:42 AM (#5785948)
Yeah, Strasburg is part of the "some were hurt". Penciling in Strasburg for a full healthy season is folly. While a year old is a good thing for Soto and Robles it is a bad thing for Scherzer, Roark, and Zimmerman.

No one is saying they are a stone cold lock. But a full year of Strasburg is well within the reasonable set of outcomes. Scherzer has shown no signs of slowing down. Roark and Zimmerman weren't that great this year.

They've got a core of Rendon, Turner, Soto, and Eaton on offense, with Robles projected to be very good. Robles projects to be better than Harper was in 2018, so he fills that hole.

They've got a rotation of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Roark. Plus Fedde who projects to be league average.

That's a good enough core to compete with anyone in the NL East next year. There is no powerhouse in that division.

   13. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:52 AM (#5785958)
Roark and Zimmerman weren't that great this year.

That's the point.

But a full year of Strasburg is well within the reasonable set of outcomes

Is Strasburg coming up with cold fusion well within the reasonable set of outcomes?


My original statement was that it is probably wise to pause on purchases and that still holds true. Your posts look to be a reinforcement of that view. They have some young players that look to possibly take a step forward, they are at the luxury tax threshold, and they have some question marks on the team, along with some of their anchors getting older.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:54 AM (#5785963)
My original statement was that it is probably wise to pause on purchases and that still holds true. Your posts look to be a reinforcement of that view.

You said they were 4 years away from contending, which is absurd. They will be competitive next year.

They need to fill some holes, so they shouldn't stand pat. They probably don't need to add a star in FA, so they should be able to keep costs under control.

   15. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 12, 2018 at 10:54 AM (#5785965)
Compete?

Sure.

But the Braves are strong comers - they got some really surprisingly good pitching from reclamation projects and cast-offs that I doubt they get again... but they've also got a ton of top shelf young pitching, most of which didn't even factor last year.

Allard, Wilson, and Wright may not be ready by spring - but Soroka looks like he belongs and if Fried has found a home as a Monty-style swingman?

Toss in Toussaint, Gohara... a few others... Gausman might be fixed.

Especially if the Braves decide to spend some money this offseason...
   16. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:20 AM (#5785991)

You said they were 4 years away from contending, which is absurd. They will be competitive next year.


No I didn't.
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:23 AM (#5785996)
Compete?

Sure.

But the Braves are strong comers


Just looking at Steamer projections (which is the only one out) the Braves have ~31 expected WAR under control, and the Nationals have ~35. I agree the Braves probably have more upside.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:24 AM (#5785998)
No I didn't.

You certainly implied it.
   19. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:29 AM (#5786007)

You certainly implied it.


No I didn't. I stated that they should pause to see what they had. The question that you took for a statement and now an implied statement was me saying why waste money and handcuff your team if it turns out you have to rebuild.
   20. Nasty Nate Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5786016)
What does pause to see what you have mean in the context of spending during an offseason? They know what they have (as much as they can know). They don't have to pause to determine that "4 years away from contending" doesn't apply to them. And they certainly shouldn't pause any efforts to improve the team while they ponder.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5786022)
What does pause to see what you have mean in the context of spending during an offseason? They know what they have (as much as they can know). They don't have to pause to determine that "4 years away from contending" doesn't apply to them. And they certainly shouldn't pause any efforts to improve the team while they ponder.

Exactly.
   22. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:48 AM (#5786028)
Even if the Cubs don't go after Harper or Machado, they're also spending plenty of money. The arb estimates already put their payroll at $225mil, and they have already said they're going to spend on RP. They might be treating the $246mil tax level as a cap though; and not even going after Harper after years of him to the Cubs rumors sure makes it seem like they're not spending big.

---

The Nats have some holes, that if they could shore up they could be right back in contention for best in the NL. OF isn't one of those holes (well, assuming Eaton will play anything close to a full season is probably a mistake). If they really think they need to pause this offseason, they should probably consider trading guys like Scherzer and Rendon. Doing nothing might work out for them, but I think it's the riskiest move.
   23. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:55 AM (#5786032)
Now they are a year older and some were hurt.


Yes. And? In the cases of Soto and Robles , that's a good thing, as they will be all of 20 and 22 next year. In the cases of Turner and Rendon, and possibly Strasburg (26, 29 and 30 next year), it's probably irrelevant. Only Scherzer is at an age where a year older would be cause for concern.
   24. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:56 AM (#5786033)
Why throw 30 million at somebody if you’re 4 years away from contending?


I only say things like this if I think you're 4 years way from contending.
   25. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 11:57 AM (#5786034)

The Nats should obviously be trying to get better. Not in a "bet the farm" kind of way, but right now they are the best team in the division, and if spending some money also keeps the Phillies and/or Braves from getting those same players, even better.

OTOH I'm not convinced that anyone should spend $400m on Harper. If the Phillies are prepared to do that, let them and maybe you reap the long-term rewards.
   26. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 12, 2018 at 12:01 PM (#5786036)
OTOH I'm not convinced that anyone should spend $400m on Harper. If the Phillies are prepared to do that, let them and maybe you reap the long-term rewards.


Yup.

Mega contracts just have not worked out well, for the most part.

The only player I'd be interested in giving 400M to is Mike Trout and he isn't available.
   27. shoewizard Posted: November 12, 2018 at 12:17 PM (#5786046)
So if there is to continue to be a similar distribution of money to the player pool, (total league player expenses as a percentage of revenues) and teams don't want to pay free agents like they have in the past, they have to pay more to younger players, right ?

Setting aside the debate point about whether or not the union will actually negotiate on behalf of it's younger members, could some of the shifts look like these options ?

One would be to increase League minimum to 1 Million. That would in turn increase arbitration wages exponentially.

Another would be to simply speed up the clock, and make it possible for players to hit arbitration after 2 years, instead of 3.

A third even stronger measure would be to shorten the control clock altogether. i.e. 2 years pre arb, 2 years arb, and then free agent.

   28. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 12:20 PM (#5786049)
So if there is to continue to be a similar distribution of money to the player pool, (as a percentage of revenues) and teams don't want to pay free agents like they have in the past, they have to pay more to younger players, right ?


*looks at the increased level artificial suppression of player compensation in the new Budshofied draft rules*

Nope.
   29. shoewizard Posted: November 12, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5786052)
Then they're headed towards serious labor strife before next CBA is signed. The union won't fold twice in a row.
   30. shoewizard Posted: November 12, 2018 at 12:27 PM (#5786053)
Here are the avg player ages in 5 year increments, (pitcher age and batter age. )

Year Tms PAge BatAge
2018 30 28.4 28.1
2015 30 28.4 28.4
2010 30 28.4 28.9
2005 30 29.2 29.2
2000 30 28.8 29.1
1995 28 28.3 28.6
1990 26 28.4 28.4
1985 26 28.3 28.8
1980 26 28.0 28.2
1975 24 27.6 27.3
1970 24 27.1 27.6
1965 20 27.7 27.3
1960 16 27.6 28.2
1955 16 28.2 28.3
1950 16 28.5 28.3
   31. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 12, 2018 at 01:19 PM (#5786078)
One would be to increase League minimum to 1 Million. That would in turn increase arbitration wages exponentially.

Another would be to simply speed up the clock, and make it possible for players to hit arbitration after 2 years, instead of 3.

A third even stronger measure would be to shorten the control clock altogether. i.e. 2 years pre arb, 2 years arb, and then free agent.


A fourth would be for the union to recognize a bit of the old analytics themselves...

I.e., there are lots of options for the MLBPA to better ensure its long-term health - even if it costs them a bit in the next CBA - in regards to non-card carrying minor leaguers, draftees, and the like. The entire concept of WAR is predicated on 'freely available'. Start staging non-MLBPA covered players under the MLBPA umbrella? Lots of equations change.
   32. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 02:48 PM (#5786135)
Obviously the solution is revenue sharing.

Every player has to put 25% of their salary in a collective pool and everyone gets an equal share. Also the ten highly-paid players in the league donate an additional 5% of their salaries to fund a bonus pool for the top performers. That way everyone is happy.
   33. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 02:48 PM (#5786136)
What does pause to see what you have mean in the context of spending during an offseason? They know what they have (as much as they can know). They don't have to pause to determine that "4 years away from contending" doesn't apply to them. And they certainly shouldn't pause any efforts to improve the team while they ponder.

Exactly.


I didn't say they have to pause to determine that they are 4 years away from contending. And what is with the exactly? You're (Snapper) are basically arguing for the same thing I am.

They probably don't need to add a star in FA, so they should be able to keep costs under control.
   34. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Fred Posted: November 12, 2018 at 04:44 PM (#5786201)
My interpretation of [5] was right in line with Snapper's. McCoy refers specifically to the Nat's situation, so it only makes sense that the question at the end would also refer specifically to the Nat's. It's probably wise to make it clear when you're changing the subject in the middle of a paragraph. Why act like an ####### when you can just acknowledge that what you wrote was confusing?
   35. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Fred Posted: November 12, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5786202)
To be clear my prior post neither stated nor implied that McCoy was acting like an #######
   36. McCoy Posted: November 12, 2018 at 04:56 PM (#5786206)
It's probably wise to make it clear when you're changing the subject in the middle of a paragraph.

Because I didn't change subjects. I was in fact talking about the Nats. I said they should pause to see what they had and if it turns out they need to rebuild why be on the hook for a 30 million dollar player. I never once made the assumption they will be bad or are in rebuilding mode right now.
   37. Nasty Nate Posted: November 12, 2018 at 05:09 PM (#5786212)
How much time should elapse during this pause?
   38. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 05:15 PM (#5786215)

I also thought post #5 indicated that McCoy thinks the Nats are 4 years away from contending, or at least that they might be 4 years away from contending and that they should "pause" to see whether the latter is true.

It is still not clear to me what "pause" means in that context. They can evaluate what they have during the offseason prior to making any big spending decisions. What will they learn between now and some point before the trade deadline next season, other than how the guys already on the roster perform in a relatively small sample size? Or are you suggesting they wait until next offseason?
   39. DCA Posted: November 12, 2018 at 05:33 PM (#5786230)
Nats only really need a catcher, a 2B, and a #3/4 SP. RP but every team needs RP and they have back-end guys in place (Doolittle, Rosenthal, Barraclough). It would also be nice to get a better backup 1B option than Kendrick in case Zimmerman is hurt/bad again. But I don't know if anyone good would sign for that role so you are probably best off stashing a Mark Reynolds or buying a Matt Adams when you need him.

No short-term help on the farm except bullpen. Long-term maybe Kieboom gets 2B but he's probably 2 years away and anyway Rendon is a FA next year so IF is a long-term need.

Other than luxury tax issues, there's no reason not to go with the premier solution at each

SP Corbin/Keuchel
CA Grandal (they don't have the pieces to get Realmuto)
2B Machado (he plays SS/3B, Turner or Rendon to 2B)

To save money and/or years, there are lots of roughly equivalent second-tier options

SP Happ/Eovaldi/Morton
CA Ramos/Suzuki/Maldonado
2B LeMahieu/Dozier/Lowrie

They could also bargain shop, e.g.

SP Lynn/Cahill
CA Wieters/Lucroy
2B Kinsler/Walker

B-R puts the Nats current roster at $165m including arb. So they have $40m to spend before hitting the tax cap. One each from menu B plus a few bullpen guys should easily fit in that amount.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 12, 2018 at 06:11 PM (#5786249)
Nats only really need a catcher, a 2B, and a #3/4 SP. RP but every team needs RP and they have back-end guys in place (Doolittle, Rosenthal, Barraclough). It would also be nice to get a better backup 1B option than Kendrick in case Zimmerman is hurt/bad again. But I don't know if anyone good would sign for that role so you are probably best off stashing a Mark Reynolds or buying a Matt Adams when you need him.

Is there a reason Kendrick isn't an option for 2B?
   41. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 12, 2018 at 07:02 PM (#5786262)
Nats only really need a catcher


Wait, what? Don't they have Weiters? Surely....SURELY that BPpro prediction will come true eventually!!

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