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How free-agent busts could reshape the future of MLB.

This past offseason was considered the worst ever for free agents. Might we say that about the actual season as well? Technically, Shohei Ohtani was a free agent, though due to his age and his prodigious two-way talents, it is not really apples-to-apples to compare him to traditional free agents. But as an aside here,...
Time: 14:48     Date: 26.05.2018
Last US Sport News: How free-agent busts could reshape the future of MLB. NY Post 24 - US News

Technically, Shohei Ohtani was a free agent, though due to his age and his prodigious two-way talents, it is not really apples-to-apples to compare him to traditional free agents. But as an aside here, man is he special.

J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta endured long waits on the market and settled for less than anticipated. But they are everything their new teams hoped. Martinez, a brilliant overall hitter, has helped Boston regain its power stroke. Arrieta has served as the veteran ballast of a young, talented Phillies rotation.

Eric Hosmer has been excellent for the Padres. Lorenzo Cain continues to be the Draymond Green of the majors, a Swiss Army Knife who contributes in so many ways game to game. Hosmer, Martinez, Cain and Arrieta represent four of the five largest deals of the offseason. So the top of the market is so far working.

But the last member of the five highest paid is Yu Darvish, who has been terrible for the Cubs. And, remember, these are multi-year contracts in their first year.

And this season has again reminded that a team getting through one of these and feeling good on the other end is not great. Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment Friday. Following the 2014 season, the Red Sox signed Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval for a combined $183 million, neither performed nearly to expectations and both were dismissed well before their finish lines. The Red Sox will pay that duo in excess of $33 million not to play for them.

Here is a long, but not complete list of those who signed multi-year free-agent deals before last offseason who are underwhelming this year, often serving as roster/payroll albatrosses: Wei-Yin Chen, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Davis, Ian Desmond, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler, Rich Hill, Ian Kennedy, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez, Kendrys Morales, Gerardo Parra, Albert Pujols and Jeff Samardzija.

That list did not include players who signed long extensions just before free agency — such as Homer Bailey, Danny Duffy and Hunter Pence — who are not performing.

More cold functionaries than ever run baseball operations. They read the spreadsheets. They see the bottom line. And that is: For every Jon Lester or Max Scherzer that works out splendidly, there are way more examples that these long deals become problematic. It took four decades-plus of free agency for the groupthink to be run away from free agency.

The competitive nature within the sport will continue to drive front offices to swallow hard, close their eyes and sign players. But probably not like in the past. Thus, the Players Association must figure out how to negotiate a new system in 2021 that allows younger stars (those who teams would much more gladly pay) eligible to receive the largesse.

On Memorial Day weekend, just two months into these current contracts, here are a few who will bring further pause to the industry:

1. Yu Darvish: The Cubs thought signing Darvish (five years, $126 million) and Tyler Chatwood (three years, $38 million) would fortify their rotation. They might have been better off figuring out how to retain Arrieta. Darvish had a 4.95 ERA and a growing reputation for crumbling when the going gets tough. The Cubs envisioned Chatwood as their spin-rate version of Charlie Morton, especially outside of Coors Field. He has a 3.74 ERA, but 40 walks to 41 strikeouts and just three starts in nine that reached the sixth inning.

The Cubs’ free agent bullpen signings of Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing and Brandon Morrow (combined 1.19 ERA/63 games) has compensated somewhat for too much shoddy rotation work.

Greg HollandAP

2. Greg Holland: The dawn-of-the season signing of a proven closer felt like a final key piece to Cardinals contention. Except Holland’s stuff is way down and he has become just about unusable. Another late signing, Bud Norris, for $3 million in February, has saved St. Louis. Literally. He leads the team with nine saves.

Perhaps there is a lesson about believing you are getting a deal by outlasting free agents and signing them late at usually reduced rates. But many of the players who did that — such as Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison and Neil Walker — struggled early.

3. Alex Cobb/Andrew Cashner/Chris Tillman: No organization has a more dysfunctional baseball operations set-up than the Orioles, and perhaps the ramifications are shown with bad free-agent investments. Chris Davis, in particular, and Mark Trumbo have not performed to hopes and clogged maneuverability. Baltimore envisioned Cobb, Cashner and Tillman providing veteran rotation depth to help challenge the Yankees and Red Sox. Instead the trio was 4-16 with a 6.82 ERA for a last-place team.

Jake McGeeAP

4. Jake McGee/Bryan Shaw: Colorado gave identical three-year, $27 million pacts to set up fellow free-agent sign Wade Davis. Davis has been good, but McGee and Shaw have combined for a 5.88 ERA and a minus-0.5 WAR. Even with Davis, the Rockies have arguably the worst free-agent class from last offseason — with Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Iannetta, who, teamed with previous free-agent missteps Desmond and Parra, are crippling the Rockies’ offense.

5. Mets. Jay Bruce looks more like the player who played so poorly upon being acquired in 2016 than the solid piece of last year. Todd Frazier, signed in part for his durability, is on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak made two appearances before incurring an oblique injury. Jason Vargas came off the DL to make what is so far one good start in four. And Jose Reyes has been one of the worst players in the majors.

There is a constant scream for the Mets to spend more, but results like these are not going to encourage that.

Sport

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Opinion

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Living

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Business

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Metro

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Sport

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