“For the love of God will the Wilpon’s do something already”
It has been a frustrating off season so far, for fans of the New York Mets baseball club. After a season where the Mets traded off expiring contracts, the club has been slow in replacing that lost talent for the 2018 campaign.
Mets fans are not alone in their frustration however. The lukewarm hot stove is a league wide phenomenon. This is possibly the slowest off season in years.
Joel Sherman talked about his thoughts on why the free agent market has stalled in the New York Post here
It is true. Those long term mega deals used to be the norm. They now seem to be phasing out. The first indication that this would be a different kind of off season could be traced back to the trade deadline, when the Mets were looking to ship Jay Bruce, and his expiring contract.
The market for one dimensional ball players, like Bruce, has been waning. Prior years, a veteran that put up 40 home runs, and over 100 RBIs would get a top level contract. Bruce, it was thought throughout the 2017 season, could get a 5 year contract worth over $100 million.
It seems now, that Jay Bruce could be looking at half that amount. He is not alone. The market has yet to heat up for another power hitting right fielder, in JD Martinez. He was looking at an even loftier contract than Bruce, and might have to settle for half of what he was expecting.
Another big free agent position is third base, with Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier leading the way.
All of these are similar players. All are considered more the traditional power hitter types. Guys that hit 5th in your line up, not third. None of them contribute to wins on the base paths. And only Frazier is a plus on defense.
Moustakas, and Martinez, with Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer make up the top position players available. Add Jake Arrietta and Yu Darvish, and you have a talented bunch of free agents. All of which are still unsigned.
Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement also comes into play. The penalties raise quick, and become even more prohibited if a team passes certain salary thresholds year after year. Both the Dodgers and Yankees have said publicly they wish to get under the luxury tax for 2018.
It is possible that all of this is connected. The free agent class of 2019 is strong. Very strong. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson could all hit the open market. Clayton Kershaw has an opt out in his contract for 2019. Those are three of the top position players, and one of the top 3 starting pitchers in the game. Three potential MVP candidates.
Todd Frazier is a professional ball player. Mike Moustakas is a great third baseman. But they aren’t Donaldson, or Machado.
Bruce and JD Martinez are good players. But Bryce Harper is one of he best over all players in the game today.
Darvish and Arrietta both are all stars. But they can’t compare to an all time great in Clayton Kershaw.
It is possible that the slow 2018 free agent market is being completely dictated by the possibilities of the 2019 free agent class.
Why would a team like the Yankees sign Frazier or Moustakas, risk going over the luxury tax for another consecutive season? They can wait a year, and get one of the games best players instead.
The analytics of baseball has reached free agency. Many teams are hesitant to give long term contracts to good players in their 30s. Combine that with an incredibly strong potential free agent class in 2019, and the hot stove is lukewarm.