Yes, there are still 100 players remaining on the free agent market as baseball spring training camps open in a few days. There remains little doubt regarding how the market has changed with the slow pace of free agent signings for the second consecutive year.
Perhaps the waiting game will pick up when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado secure their future and that remains a guessing game. And one has to realize Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and Yankees GM Brian Cashman are also playing the waiting game.
Though it appears that Hal Steinbrenner is doing the talking for his Yankees, Thursday at the owners’ meetings in Orlando Florida, he said “Fans should keep an open mind that I’m never done until I’m done and that’s usually not until opening day.”
So don’t rule out the Harper and Machado bidding from the Yankees playbook. Though it remains unlikely that the Yankees will open the season in the Bronx with one or two of the coveted free agents on the market.
The Mets? It appears, and as Brodie says, the job has been done. They are ready and obtained their needs as the busiest and most active of teams this off season. Never say never with Brodie, though seeing Harper and Machado at Citi Field in April is also not happening.
The focal point of the new Mets GM’s off season strategy is having the blessings of his owners, while Brian Cashman has always had the backing of the Steinbrenner family. Brodie Van Wagenen has proved to be aggressive and if the need arises, he will make another addition.
The Mets could still be in need of a back end starter. Will they spend? Left hander Gio Gonzalez was on the radar but that talk appears to have diminished. Gonzalez is one of the free agents remaining on the market and it could take a two or three year deal to get him signed by the Mets or other rumored teams such as the A’s, Padres, and Brewers.
Despite what analytics say, a 33-year old Gio Gonzalez deserves a three-year deal more than the one that 36-year old Lance Lynn signed with the Texas Rangers for three-years at $30 million. In between is that Jason Vargas contract and always a need for more pitching and that left handed starter in the event Steven Matz goes down with another injury.
So, in the case of this market, teams are not done. And that pertains to what Cashman and Brodie will see as spring training progresses.
Consider the Yankees 100 wins of last season and that was not enough to overtake the Red Sox. Though the Yankees with their offense and perhaps the best bullpen in the game have secured their postseason status and it could be a long reign of October baseball in the Bronx.
Then analyze where this game is going and why the free agent market is at this snail’s pace. As a top NL executive said, the Players Union has a legitimate point to make with owners toward a better accounting of money that is being dispersed to teams through the national television, radio contracts, and those other streams of revenue that have come into play in the digital age.
He describes that luxury tax threshold as still gaining attention of teams that make it more difficult for free agents to acquire that huge and lucrative deal.
But believe in Brodie, Steinbrenner and Cashman. They will go the extra mile and spend. But those days of spending for a Harper or Machado does not amount to seven years and $300 million.
There is more to this in the days and months ahead. However the reality is a complexion of this game has changed and that involves more than the proposed rule changes.