MLB Free Agency Much Busier Than Last Year As Winter Meetings Begin
MLB's Winter Meetings begin today, and compared to last year, the league already is "working at a much faster pace," according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Through Friday, MLB teams had spent approximately $475M on free agents, with "three deals worth at least" $50M. At this same stage last year, only $286M had been invested in free agents. Six different teams have "won the World Series the last six seasons, and 10 in the last 15 years." So, owners of "aspirational teams" are "growing impatient and willing to add to their payrolls or take chances in trades" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/8). In DC, Dave Sheinin writes there are "reasons to believe things could be different at these winter meetings -- busier and more blockbuster-y." This already has been a "faster-moving free agent marketplace than any of the past few." More teams are "participating in the high-end free agent market," leading to "more (and earlier) competition and quicker deals." Much of the "stagnation that gripped the past few offseasons can be attributed" to the Yankees and Dodgers, who "largely sat out the high-end free agent markets." But now both teams "appear ready to dive back into the elite free agent pools" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/9).
IT'S HIS WORLD: SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote MLB's winter "runs through" agent Scott Boras, who represents three free agents "expected to sign contracts of at least" $150M: 3B Anthony Rendon and Ps Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. No agent "ever has negotiated three free agent deals that big in the same off-season, and when Boras is done he will have negotiated 13 of the 37 biggest contracts in history." Boras said that the "pace of negotiations this winter is far greater" than last year. Boras: I've had meetings with ownership groups for 14 consecutive days. I'm not even sure last year with Bryce [Harper] that I had one meeting like these until around the holidays. The landscape is completely different" (SI.com, 12/7). In L.A., Bill Shaikin noted Cole is "widely expected to sign the richest contract of any pitcher in major league history, with the over-under" at $250M. This year's free-agent class has over 200 players -- "enough to fill the rosters of eight major league teams" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).
COASTAL ELITES: MLB Network's Joel Sherman said a potential bidding war between the Yankees and Dodgers for Cole is "fascinating," as the two clubs have "really never done this, battled it out for a guy" in free agency. Sherman: "The Yankees are all in for Gerrit Cole, and it probably works out best for the whole Scott Boras stable if Cole ends up there, because the Dodgers are still bidding on Rendon. It helps that market." MLB Net's Dan O'Dowd said the Yankees and Dodgers, the "two beasts on both coasts," both have "payroll flexibility." MLB Net's Ken Rosenthal noted the Angels also have "strong interest" in Cole. Rosenthal also said Strasburg is "going to do really well," as "this is a very high-end market for starting pitching right now and teams ... are willing to pay" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 12/8).