Padres signed 2B Ian Kinsler 2/$8M after the Winter Meetings. The timing here is significant, as Padres GM AJ Preller had to wait out the Rule 5 Draft to make any FA acquisitions with their full foster. As a result, the Padres lost zero players to the Rule 5 Draft, even though they have the top-rated farm system in baseball. Excellent roster management by AJP, who is now seeking a 3B. Currently, the best free agent option at third base is age-30 Mike Moustakas.
The Padres have no interest in Marlins catcher JT Realmuto, despite any “rumors” you are reading from industry hacks attempting to stoke the hot stove. I believe most teams have been put-off by Derek Jeter & Mike Hill’s unrealistic demands. Their problem is they have made so many bad deals in the past year, trading All-stars (& MVP’s) for junk prospects. The Marlins front office keeps thinking they are going to finally hit the motherlode, and it never happens. The other GM’s are all smarter, and that’s a huge problem in Miami. Their only hope at this point is if the Dodgers overpay for Realmuto, which isn’t likely, although although could happen.
Everyone in baseball keeps talking about RF Bryce Harper & SS Manny Machado, but it’s the other end of the free agent market that is the real story. Closer Craig Kimbrel declined a $17.9M qualifying offer (QO) from the Red Sox in November, as he’s reportedly seeking a 6-year deal. When the Dodgers signed hard-throwing ex-Red Sox set-up man Joe Kelly for 3/$25M last week, that sent a sobering message to the Kimbrel camp.
Carrying QO draft-pick compensation doesn’t help Kimbrel’s cause, as really he’s not worth 2/$15M at this point. Plus, who wants to give a valuable draft pick to the Red Sox? Kimbrel will be age-31 next season, with declining efficacy, and everyone saw his dismal performances in the post-season. The Mets & Dodgers are done spending stupid money on relievers, so there goes the market for overpays. Reality is going to bite him hard in January/February, when he will have to accept a concession contract, and it will be his fault. He should have accepted the QO. What kind of idiot on the backside of his career turns down $18M for one year?
Speaking of more stupid, the Mets (77-85 in 2018) have announced their intentions to be competitive in the near-future, by making a flurry of trades and free-agent signings this winter; acquiring 2B Robinson Cano & closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, while bringing back shaky reliever Jeurys Familia for 3/$30M. They just signed age-31 FA catcher Wilson Ramos for 2/$19M, which is another overpay.
A Mets “rumor” that has been circulated all winter has them trading RHP Noah Syndergaard to the Padres for all their top prospects. This will not happen, and is another wishful-thinking media-driven narrative. The Padres are probably more interested in acquiring RHP Sonny Gray from the Yankees.
Syndergaard is now arbitration eligible, after making $3M in 2018. His effectiveness is unquestionable, but his leadership & durability aren’t. The question this baseball fan has is: If the Mets are planning to compete in the near future, then why are they so desperate to trade a young Noah Syndergaard? He’s been on the trade block for the last 6 months or so, and no one is biting; so what do all the GM’s know about Noah Syndergaard, that we fans aren’t being told?
As mentioned above the Dodgers are looking for a catcher, after Yasmani Grandal declined his QO. Grandal turned 30 last month, and had a career season in 2018, (.241/.349/.466) in 140 games. The problem is that is defense is very suspect, as shown in the post-season. That’s why the Dodgers let him go. If the Mets preferred Ramos at 2/$19M, then what is Grandal worth? The answer is: A lot less than the $17.9M QO he rejected. Plus, what NL team wants to give the Dodgers their draft pick?
That’s the major bug-a-boo with QO’s, the draft pick compensation. That draft choice could be the next Mike Trout, so teams value it very highly– to the detriment of the FA who rejects the QO. Player arrogance & greed is clouding their better judgment, and their legal council stinks.
Another MLB free agent who rejected his QO is ex-Astros RHP Dallas Keuchel, who isn’t expected to sign until late January– at the earliest. Once again, it’s because the player & his agent have misjudged the market. The draft-pick compensation removes a significant amount of value from a free agent signing, and players have been slow to realize this phenomenon.
The owners & GM’s understand this well, and since they are the ones who hand out the contracts, they control the market. FA pitchers are high-risk, and after the results of signing Hu Darvish (Cubs) & Jake Arrieta (Phillies) last winter, no team wants to get burned like that again.
If a player accepts his qualifying offer, he gets $17.9M for one season, then becomes an unrestricted free agent next year, as a player can only be offered a QO once. Seven MLB players were offered QO’s in November of 2018. Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one to (smartly) accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer.
Only LHP Patrick Corbin, who signed 6/$140M with the Nationals; and RF Bryce Harper were correct in rejecting their QO’s. The four others: Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Craig Kimbrel & A.J. Pollock all remain on the market, and will eventually have to sign a deal for a much lower average annual value than $18M. In light of this, what do you think of their agents?
The story of this winter in MLB will (again) be the falling free-agent salaries among the 2nd & 3rd-tier groups of players. The paydays they were promised by their agents & union leaders aren’t going to materialize. Younger & more valuable players are starting to realize their worth, and will soon be demanding a bigger piece of the pie. This is setting up to be a major league labor war down the road, as MLB ownership is intransigent about raising minimum salaries, and the MLBPA is a corrupt bureaucracy.