There has been a lot of discussion on the state of free agency. Many consider the system broke. Very few teams can be considered as realistic in offering the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But the problem is that many of the non “generational” type players wait until the top players sign and then hope that those that miss out on the Harper’s and Machado’s may be in a position to overpay for their services. I think that may have been true in the past, but I believe most of today’s FO decision makers have already decided what their ceiling is for each FA. If the FA is willing to come in below that ceiling they will be considered.
Ken Rosenthal wrote a fantastic analysis regarding the opposing consideration that both teams and players experience during FA. Per his article in the Athletic:
“The luxury-tax Catch-22, though, benefits neither player nor club.
The track records of most long-term contracts are not good, discouraging teams from wanting to go 10 years even for a Harper or Machado. The way for those players to get their true value, then, should be to receive higher salaries on shorter deals. But a player on say, a $40 million average annual salary over four years would command nearly 20 percent of the luxury-tax payroll for a team trying to stay under the $206 million threshold in 2019 – more than 20 percent in the view of one club official, considering that player benefits account for $14 million to $15 million.
The elite player, then, is in a bind. But so are the clubs that would prefer short, expensive deals to reduce their long-term risk. The threshold incentivizes behavior that runs counter to that logic, forcing clubs to stretch out deals in an effort to create as much flexibility as possible under the threshold.”
Like many many many other baseball journalists, Rosenthal posed yet another question, one that needs to be asked more often.
“Why are clubs so worried about the luxury tax in the first place?
By staying under the threshold in 2017, the Red Sox reset their penalty rate to the minimum 20 percent for every dollar they spend above it — then went more than $40 million over last season. The cost of such egregious behavior? Nearly $12 million in penalties and the loss of 10 spots with their first draft pick. A small price to pay, it would seem, for a World Series victory.
The Yankees and Dodgers went under the threshold in ’18, enabling them to be among the clubs this season that will pay only the minimum 20 percent up to $226 million, when the first surcharge kicks in. The penalty at that level would be $4 million — utility-infielder money. Even at nearly $12 million, in Red Sox territory, how much should a high-revenue team care?
The vast majority of clubs never even approach the threshold, so as rationales go it’s something of a ruse, a distraction from the greater issue — the various reasons teams offer for their reluctance to spend.”
Many agents seem to hint at teams colluding to keep salaries down. With respect to the C Word, Rosenthal notes that:
“while the union filed a grievance to baseball last February, saying four clubs — the Athletics, Marlins, Pirates and Rays — are not spending their revenue-sharing money properly, it has not filed a complaint alleging collusion.”
“The clubs, it appears, have simply figured out how to take advantage of the system, much as the players took advantage of the system in the past. Change is needed — change that would enable players to receive their highest salaries during their 20s, when they are at their most productive.”
Keeping that in mind, we are less than 5 weeks from reporting to ST. While I recognize that players can change teams or sign during ST, most team rosters are set by mid-February. Minor league contracts have been offered with ST invites for some of the hangers on to get one last chance at the ML. FO personnel are trying to fine tune their organizational rosters during ST, so very few significant trades or FA signings occur at that time.
There are currently 28 remaining FA from the MLB TradeRumors top 64.
- Bryce Harper (OF)
- Manny Machado (SS)
- Dallas Keuchel
- Gio Gonzalez
- Derek Holland
- Wade Miley
- Drew Pomeranz
- Clay Buchholz
- Justin Wilson
- Oliver Perez
- Tony Sipp
- Craig Kimbrel
- Adam Ottavino
- Cody Allen
- Bud Norris
- Brad Brach
- Ervin Santana
- Ryan Madson
- Adam Warren
- Martin Maldonado
OF (Not named Bryce Harper) (3)
- AJ Pollock
- Nick Markakis
- Adam Jones
- Mike Moustakas
Infield (Not named Manny Machado) (3)
- Asdrubal Cabrera
- Josh Harrison
- Jose Iglesias
Super Utility (1)
- Marwin Gonzalez
Of that group, how many are the Dodgers seriously considering for a ML contract? Other than Harper and Pollock, I cannot see any others that will be considered. If I had my sleeper pick it would be Jose Iglesias. He is a fantastic defensive SS and last year in 97 PA hit .318/.365/.500/.865 against LHP. He is strictly a bench player, but I would not be upset at all to see him at SS to spell Corey every once in a while. Won’t happen, but I wanted to make a plea for him.
Both Harper and Pollock will cost LAD the overall #31 pick in June’s amateur draft. I think both qualify as a player that should be considered without that loss in mind. Will Dodgers FO agree? We know what Harper is asking. He so much wants to pass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325MM contract. But Pollock was looking for Lorenzo Cain money. But he is not the player Cain is when he is healthy, and he isn’t healthy enough of the time to warrant that level of a contract.
I am somewhat surprised to see the number of back of the rotation LHSP still available and not signed by NL West teams. Pitchers like Wade Miley (last year) and Gio Gonzalez (career) have been tough on LAD.
I think a relief pitcher like Cody Allen could be of some interest. He is certainly a bounce back candidate, but I cannot see the Dodgers offering him a ML contract. I still like the idea that Singing the Blues threw out…Greg Holland on a minor league contract. Boras will never let him accept one, but I like the low risk and very high reward opportunity there.
With the number of relievers available, I cannot see Kimbrel getting his money. He originally wanted $100MM+ for 6 years. That was unrealistic, and that could have cost him. He is now down to Aroldis Chapman money, and I cannot see where he is going to get that from. Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Boston seem to be the only three that are interested in spending on Kimbrel, but it will be nowhere close to what he thought it would be. He is really going to need to come down for Boston to get motivated. I know he likes Boston, but Atlanta may offer him the most to go back to his original team. The Braves need both a closer and RF. They currently have $114.6MM in CBT salaries, which is about $11.5MM less than last year. Where will they spend their dollars.
I do not know where Adam Ottovino’s market is going to be. He was counting on NYY, but with their signing of Britton and now DJLM, they are over the CBT threshold, and I think Ottavino is going to be out of consideration by NYY. NYY was deemed the frontrunner, and the only other potential team was back with Colorado. Boston could be interested if Kimbrel moves on.
Of the remaining 8 listed relievers, I can see only one potentially getting a two-year contract, and that would be Brad Brach, but I think his chances are very slim right now. Those willing to put multi years into relievers will be out after Kimbrel and Ottavino.
I still believe the Dodgers are looking to make a trade for Corey Kluber. The Indians want an OF and young pitching in return. The Pads think they can make it work with their current bevy of young OF (Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Frenchy Cordero) and young pitching both at the ML level and top prospects. The Tribe likes Adrian Morejon, but only as a complimentary piece. They still want one of the top pitching prospects.
If the Dodgers do make an unexpected trade, one player I would like to see them look at would be RH hitting OF from St. Louis, Tyler O’Neil. I do not see what kind of trade package St. Louis would be interested in, but he could be someone to watch take off this year.
There are around 130 remaining FA in total, with many “names” still available in addition to the 28 named above. Some of the above listed FA will only be offered minor league contracts with an ST invite. Many not listed will get minor league contract offers, but probably very few major league contract offers. There are going to be a lot of previously solid players who will not get offers, major league or minor league. I think the Dodgers will tap into a few of the SP as a “just in case” but more importantly to play at OKC and Tulsa. Chris Tillman, Marco Estrada, Nate Karns, Josh Tomlin, James Shields, and Jason Hammel should get consideration for minor league contracts if still unsigned by ST. Of course not all of them.
I can also see a few more OF type players who will get a chance at OKC and Tulsa. If not signed to ML contracts, I think they may take a look at Gerardo Parra or CarGo. But I think both will get ML offers.
While I would not offer a ML contract, I could see the Dodgers looking at a minor league contract with an invite for relievers Hunter Strickland and Erasmo Ramirez. They probably believe they still should be getting ML offers, and maybe they will. But just in case they do not, those are two that you may want to keep close.
I still believe that the Dodgers remain in trade talks with a few teams. I still believe the Dodgers are looking to make a trade for Corey Kluber. The Indians want an OF and young pitching in return. The Pads think they can make it work with their current bevy of young OF and young pitching both at the ML level and top prospects.
I think that JTR is still a target, although nowhere near their price. Castellanos is also a consideration, but the deal would need to include Joc and his $5MM. I do not know how receptive the Tigers would be.
Players that need to make the 25 man roster out of ST or will be lost are:
- Brock Stewart
- Yimi Garcia
- JT Chargois
A player that should be considered in a potential trade is Josh Fields. He has just signed for $2.85MM and even though he has an option, I cannot Freidman keeping a pitcher with that level of a contract at AAA. Will he make the 25 man out of ST? He is very much on the bubble.