Eric Hosmer and Jake Arrieta are the most severe examples of a market that isn't acting like it normally does
We’re firmly into the new year, and Major League Baseball’s offseason is showing no signs of the opposite of letting up. This is a problem for some in the editorial business…
I have to turn in a "Top 25 transactions of the hot stove season" article for an annual with a long lead time, like, yesterday, so let me say thank you to the glacially-slow offseason for turning a straight article into pure comedy.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 3, 2018
… because this is all that can be written.
Here are my 2018 offseason grades for 1/3/2018 pic.twitter.com/9mKfCpqXhV
— Ben Carsley (@BenCarsley) January 3, 2018
Eight of the top-10 free agents on MLB Trade Rumors’ list have yet to sign. On top of that, there’s precious little activity around any of them. What’s even more, the documented little activity is getting stranger.
Case in points:
Good news: There are actual documented offers regarding the winter’s most divisive free agent.
Bad news: Even those have weird snags.
Bob Nightengale delivered the most substantial rumor yet for any of the aforementioned eight free agents:
The Kansas City Royals have offered Hosmer a franchise-record seven-year, $147 million contract, persons close to Hosmer told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity since negotiations are still undergoing.
Hosmer also has a seven-year, $140 million offer from the Padres, people close to Hosmer say, which is $1 million less a year than the Royals’ deal.
Those figures hung in the air for a while, but they haven’t generated momentum. Instead, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune said he heard the Padres’ offer was lower than $140 million. On the Royals’ side, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger shot down the $147 million figure, calling it “almost certainly pushed by people close to Hosmer in attempt to kickstart action in a historically slow baseball offseason.”
Lin did say the Padres were willing to go seven years on Hosmer, so Nightengale’s report isn’t entirely unsubstantiated. If that’s the case, the $140 million figure seems awfully convenient, as if to say, “We’d rather not sign for less than Carlos Santana’s average annual salary.”
Hosmer’s situation is weird, but then again, Scott Boras’ hyperbolic representation may not be a great fit for somebody who has alternated good years with mediocre ones. A $200 million deal was floated by numerous writers before the offseason began. That was ridiculous on its face, and if Hosmer’s side feels like it has to save face, one could say he’s the one dragging out proceedings a little more.
What’s weirder is what’s happening with…
Boras represents Arrieta, too. For that matter, he also represents Mike Moustakas, so I wonder how much of the slow offseason can be traced back to him. It brings to mind the White Sox generating lackluster activity for Jose Quintana last winter, perhaps because they already jolted the market twice with two other great contracts.
Whatever the case, Arrieta’s market has been similarly sluggish, so much so that the Cubs are back in the hunt, according to Bruce Levine.
Looking ahead, the Cubs have a renewed interest in bringing back Arrieta, sources said. Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, had a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 30 starts in 2017. The two clubs showing the most interest in Arrieta are the Cubs and Cardinals, according to one industry source.
Matt Spiegel said that Levine added that both the Cubs and Cardinals have held the line at offering four years. It’s now Jan. 4, and the best or second-best pitcher on the open market still hasn’t made one of two direct division rivals cave in for a fifth year.
That seems implausible, and if there’s an artificial constraint on the market, it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from. Perhaps Boras is trying to use the specter of the Cardinals to push the Cubs into a fifth year, because the Cubs are hunting for a top-flight starter more than other teams, and maybe his slow-play tactics pose a big problem for an entire free agent class when he represents so much of the top tier. He’s why basketball has a shot clock.
On the other side, owners can’t be collectively trusted either, because they’ve been collectively illegal on at least one occasion.
But hey, the White Sox were never going to be proactively involved in the market, so at least this hasn’t affected any of my editorial plans. The Internet may take much from many, but it doesn’t exactly demand Ji-man Choi or Fernando Abad rumors.
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