All The Money In The World? MLB Seeing A Buyer's Market In Free Agency
The lack of movement on MLB's free-agent market this winter "seems to have created a buyer's market in January," as evident by the Mets last night signing RF Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39M deal, according to Kristie Ackert of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The market has been "shockingly slow" outside of relief pitchers, as four of the players "projected as this winter’s top free agents" -- P Yu Darvish, P Jake Arrieta, 1B Eric Hosmer and RF J.D. Martinez -- remain unsigned. Martinez' continued availability may be "holding up other players," though with Spring Training approaching and some players "admittedly beginning to get nervous about their ever-nearer futures, teams are able to negotiate more team-friendly deals" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/11). In N.Y., Ken Davidoff writes in this "freezing-cold Hot Stove League, Bruce agreed to a deal that he probably wouldn’t have envisioned accepting" at the end of last season (N.Y. POST, 1/11). In Minneapolis, Phil Miller writes teams have "come to value payroll flexibility" and avoiding MLB's luxury tax "more than high-priced players." It is "evident that nobody wants to be the first to sign, at least not at anything resembling a discount price, so the logjam remains," but there is "going to be a rush of signings at some point." Will teams "panic as their targets go elsewhere, and overbid for whoever remains" or will players "begin lowering their demands in order to draw more interest?" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/11).
REASONS FOR SLOW MOVEMENT: MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal said the luxury tax threshold is impacting teams like the Yankees and Dodgers that are "trying to get under that." Additionally, agent Scott Boras, who reps Hosmer and Martinez, "generally seeks top-of-the-market deals." He also is "unusually patient when he isn’t getting what he wants." One other reason for the lack of movement is that this free agent class "is not as strong as the ones that will follow, particularly next year” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 1/8). The N.Y. Times’ Tyler Kepner said he believes free agency typically is "fueled by desperation." Kepner: "You have some team that’s just desperate to go above and beyond where they probably should go to get this player, figuring he is the guy who can put us over the top. Now there is not that sense of desperation because teams have voices in every front office to say, ‘That is a bad play if you reach for that guy’” (“MLB Now,” MLB Network, 1/8).
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR: SI's Stephanie Apstein notes the main reason for the lack of Hot Stove activity likely is the fact that next year's free agent class "looks historically tempting." Nationals RF Bryce Harper, Orioles 3B Manny Machado, Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson and Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon "will hit the market at 33 or younger," while Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw "can opt out of his deal." Teams do not want to "spend now, incur luxury-tax penalties and take itself out of the market" (SI, 1/15 issue).