So far, this year is beginning to mimic last year a bit. There has been some movement, but it is for the lesser thought of FA or in one case a player who wants a bigger pay day next year (Josh Donaldson).
It seems that a lot of teams are looking for the trade route first before even considering a high cost FA. Look for Harper and Machado to go into 2019 before they are signed, especially Harper. The Phillies are looking to maybe get Jean Segura instead of Machado. Yes, they say that they may be interested in both, but I think that is more posturing than anything else. I think they would be fine with Segura and say Patrick Corbin rather than Machado. I think they will wait to go all out on Trout before they spend the money on Harper.
The Mets needed a closer, and there were certainly a few to choose from in the FA ranks. The one they were supposedly originally tied to was Craig Kimbrel. But he is looking for a 6 year and $90MM+ deal. I do not even think the Braves or BoSox are interested in him at that price. So, Van Wagenen went to Seattle to see about Diaz. The conversation probably went something like:
Brodie – “Jerry, this is Brodie Van Wagenen. What will it take to get Edwin Diaz?”
Dipoto – “Hi Brodie, Robinson Cano and his contract want to go back to NY, so it starts there.”
Brodie – “OK – We will take Cano off your hands along with Diaz. But you are going to need to take Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak as part of the trade, and still pony up some cash. Now let’s talk about the rest of the return.”
The deal is:
Robinson Cano – $120MM less $20MM estimated to be paid by Mariners and Edwin Diaz; for
Jay Bruce – $26MM
Anthony Swarzak – $8MM
Jarred Kelenic (Mets #3)
Justin Dunn (Mets #4)
It boils down to the Mets getting Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for $66MM, while the Mariners pick up three prospects a 1B/RF and RHRP and save $66MM but lose Edwin Diaz. And the Mets get to keep 2B Jeff McNeil. That makes Cano the Mets 1B.
Let’s see if we might be able to factor in what the cost of Edwin Diaz is to the Mets. It is clear the Mets believe they can win this year. Doubtful, but they think so. Jed Lowrie is projected to make $30MM/3 years, Daniel Murphy is projected to make $20MM/2 years, and Brian Dozier is projected for $10MM/1 year. It looks like $10MM per year is what is being considered for the top of the 2B. I think it would be reasonable to assume that Cano could get what Lowrie is projected at; $30MM/ 3 years. That would then seem to calculate where the Mets get Diaz for $36MM/4 years. Yes, they lose Kelenic, Dunn, and Bautista of which, Kelenic would appear to be the biggest loss (only?).
Craig Kimbrel is looking for a 6-year contract with similar AAV’s to Chapman ($17.2MM) and Jansen ($16MM). Even at $15mm per year, that would obligate the team to $90MM. So, the Mets are basically getting 3 years of Cano and 4 years of Diaz for $66MM (and three prospects), and somebody may sign Kimbrel for $90MM. If Cano contributes anything in years 4 and 5, that would be icing.
It does not end with Kimbrel. Look at what may be happening with Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. Teams are looking for less expensive alternatives for the backstop. Mike Zunino, Yan Gomes, and Omar Narvaez were acquired through trade, while Kurt Suzuki, Jeff Mathis, and Brian McCann signed insignificant free agent contracts. JT Realmuto is being heavily discussed. It now appears that the Yankees may lead the pack with Gary Sanchez being the return. For the Marlins that is 4 years of control over 2 years. The Yankees get a “better” overall catcher. The next best look may come from the Astros who are now willing to include OF Kyle Tucker but not Forrest Whitley. The LHH Tucker would be perfect for Miami. Tucker is the overall #5 MLB prospect. The Dodgers do not have anyone to compete with Tucker. I do not see the Mets, Giants, or Brewers as serious trade partners for Realmuto.
It is more likely that Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy, Nick Hundley, Matt Wieters, James McCann, and Chris Hermann will sign before Yasmani Grandal. It is also more likely that Wilson Ramos will sign before Grandal for less money than he was hoping for. There are not that many teams looking for a $40MM+ multiyear catcher AND losing a draft pick. The Giants should (and probably will) re-sign Hundley, while I see Maldonado as a more likely fit for LAD. Grandal could very well be this year’s Mike Moustakas.
For further illustration, below is the current state of signed Free Agents since the WS ended October 28. Of the original group of Top 50 Free Agents as defined by MLBTR, ignoring Ryu who never became a FA, the only players that have signed are Josh Donaldson (#13), Garrett Richards (#43), Jesse Chavez (#44), CC Sabathia (#45), and Kurt Suzuki (#48).
|Currently Signed Free Agents|
|Ruben Alaniz||1 Year||$555K|
|Jesse Chavez||2 Years||$8MM|
|Lonnie Chisenhall||1 Year||$2.75MM|
|Josh Donaldson||1 Year||$23MM|
|Eduardo Escobar||3 Years||$21MM|
|David Freese||1 Year||$4.5MM|
|Brett Gardner||1 Year||$7.5MM|
|Jung-ho Kang||1 Year||$3MM|
|Jeff Mathis||2 Years||$6.25MM|
|Brian McCann||1 Year||$2MM|
|Matt Moore||1 Year||$2.5MM|
|Dylan Moore||1 Year||$555K|
|Steve Pearce||1 Year||$6.25MM|
|Garret Richards||2 Years||$15.5MM|
|Trevor Rosenthal||1 Year||$7MM|
|Kyle Ryan||1 Year||$555K|
|CC Sabathia||1 Year||$8MM|
|Kurt Suzuki||2 Years||$10MM|
|Adam Wainright||1 Year||$2MM|
|Minor League Contracts|
With the number of non-tender middle infielders, the current list of free agent 2B just got larger, which could drive the price for FA middle infielders down. I do not see a lot of activity in pursuing 4 top 50 FA (Jed Lowrie, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, and DJ LeMahieu), and one super utility guy (Marwin Gonzalez). That does not include the next best FA middle infielders, Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Harrison, Jose Iglesias, Logan Forsythe, and Ian Kinsler. The non-tenders include Ronald Torreyes, Tim Beckham, Yangervis Solarte, Chris Owings, and Jonathan Schoop. That is 15 middle infielders that played MLB last year, and many will not in 2019.
It may not be a lot of high quality FA players, but there are a lot of serviceable free agents. The big money teams are being more frugal, and the number of real contenders is probably not very long. Therefore, the number of teams looking to spend a lot of money on potential game – changers appears to be but a few. The Red Sox and Yankees look to be in on one big contract each, the Brewers will look at Keuchel, and Philly is an unknown. The Dodgers will not sign any large dollar FA this year. Econ 101 teaches about the Law of Supply and Demand, and what we have in 2019 free agency is a larger supply than demand. But that is not going to stop agents like Scott Boras screamCOLLUSION. For the last couple of years, teams are being far more discerning when it comes to high priced long term deals. Craig Kimbrel may ask for 6 years $90MM contract, but most contenders have a closer, and those that do not are not going to spend that kind of money when Andrew Miller, Jeurys Familia, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Brad Brach, Joe Kelly, Kelvin Herrera, Zach Britton, Cody Allen and a host of other competent late inning relievers are all capable of having a good year, and will not approach that kind of contract request. I do not see a team being so stupid as to pay $90MM for 6 years of Craig Kimbrel.
Tomorrow I will take a look at the known non-tenders and see if the Dodgers could (should) be interested in any of them or any other free agent.