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Another stagnant offseason worries MLB players

by Paul Cifonelli - Staff Writer
Wed, Mar 6th 2019 02:00 pm
Following a tense offseason and the signing of some of the largest MLB contracts in history, Spring Training has kicked off the start of the 2019 season with a few free agents left unsigned.
Following a tense offseason and the signing of some of the largest MLB contracts in history, Spring Training has kicked off the start of the 2019 season with a few free agents left unsigned.

Another offseason has come and gone for Major League Baseball, but once again the “hot stove” was pretty cold. Stars like OF Bryce Harper and 3B Manny Machado were available, but the markets for them were relatively barren. Machado was able to strike first on his deal, albeit after Spring Training had already started.

Machado was looking to maximize his value last year when he transitioned to shortstop, his natural position. However, more teams were looking for third base help this offseason. His market included the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. The White Sox traded for Machado’s brother-in-law, 1B Yonder Alonso, and signed his training partner, OF Jon Jay. While those weren’t big acquisitions for the team, it was thought that would be enough to convince him to sign. Machado didn’t see it that way and finalized a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. His contract was the largest free agent contract ever signed at the time, but it only lasted for a few weeks.

Harper was touted as potentially the best free agent the game has ever seen. He was sure to bring in a huge contract, it was just a question of who and for how much money. Harper showed that he was willing to wait until he received the record-breaking contract that he was seeking. He really only had three serious suitors; the Phillies, Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants. In the end, Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. This was the exclamation point to a big offseason for Philadelphia.

The Phillies had made some huge splashes earlier in the offseason. They traded highly touted SS J.P. Crawford and 1B Carlos Santana for SS Jean Segura and RPs James Pazos and Juan Nicasio. They also signed RP David Robertson and OF Andrew McCutchen to short-term deals and traded for C JT Realmuto. The additions to the roster have made them the favorites in the talent-loaded National League East division.

In what has turned into a four-team arms race, the Nationals, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets all made acquisitions to keep pace with the Phillies. The Nationals spent big on SP Patrick Corbin and also acquired C Yan Gomes, 2B Brian Dozier and RP Kyle Barraclough to shore up glaring holes in the roster.

The Braves got 3B Josh Donaldson on an expensive one-year pact, which shows that Donaldson is willing to bet on himself. They also signed C Brian McCann and re-signed OF Nick Markakis.

The Mets had one of the busiest offseasons, to go along with the Phillies. They traded for 2B Robinson Cano, RP Edwin Diaz, OF Keon Broxton and 3B J.D. Davis. C Wilson Ramos and RP Jeurys Familia also signed with New York.

For being a sub-.500 team for a while, the Cincinnati Reds were incredibly active. They traded for OFs Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and SP Alex Wood. The Reds also signed SS Jose Iglesias to a minor-league contract, which is a huge bargain.

The Colorado Rockies round out the active National League teams, as they paid 3B Nolan Arenado handsomely to keep him around. His new 8-year, $260 million contract will give him the highest average annual value (AAV) ever for a position player. They also signed 1B Daniel Murphy to fill in the empty roster spot from last season.

In the American League, not a whole lot has happened. The New York Yankees signed 2B DJ LeMahieu and SS Troy Tulowitzki, re-signed SP C.C. Sabathia, OF Aaron Hicks and SP Luis Severino and also traded for SP James Paxton. The Yankees’ rival, Boston Red Sox, did nothing during the offseason except for re-sign SP Nathan Eovaldi and allow CP Craig Kimbrel to leave via free agency.

The Minnesota Twins were the next most active team, making numerous acquisitions to help them shake off a disappointing 2018 season. They went out and signed 1B C.J. Cron, DH Nelson Cruz, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RP Blake Parker and UTIL Marwin Gonzalez. The Twins are going to bank on an improved rotation and the reemergence of 3B Miguel Sano and OF Byron Buxton in the 2019 campaign.

The west wasn’t all that wild this offseason. The reigning champions, Houston Astros, signed OF Michael Brantley, C Robinson Chirinos and SP Wade Miley. The Los Angeles Angels signed SPs Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, C Jonathan Lucroy and 1B Justin Bour. The Seattle Mariners tore things down to restart, while the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics made minimal moves with hopes that the 2018 iteration of the roster will be good enough to have success in 2019.

The main storyline the rest of Spring Training is where, and when, SP Dallas Keuchel and CP Craig Kimbrel will sign.

Keuchel hasn’t really had any market. The Reds, Angels, Astros and Braves have all shown varying levels of interest at different times. However, nothing has heated up and no deal is imminent.

Kimbrel has also had a limited market, but is expected from his astronomical contract request. He is  looking for a six-year, $100 million deal, according to Jayson Stark of the Athletic, which would easily be the biggest deal ever for a relief pitcher. He has not budged on those requests and could be willing to sit out into the regular season if they aren’t met.

Despite the two pitchers not being signed, all of the major free agents were signed before Spring Training was over. While it took a while, like last season, the deals got done and the money was distributed. However, players will be using this offseason as an example when it comes time to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the owners.

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