Men predict free agent destinations, God says “hah!”

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Today Buster Olney speculates about where Josh Hamilton may wind up.  He runs through any number of teams, notes that there are either fit or payroll problems, and ultimately lands on the Tigers, noting that (a) they have a spot in left field for Hamilton: and (b) they have recently been something of a free agent wild card, going big money and multiple years on Prince Fielder, who many thought would also pose a long-term/durability risk like Hamilton does.

It’s as fair a guess as any other team, I reckon. But — and I am in no way picking on Olney here when I say this, because it’s fun to guess — handicapping free agent destinations seems like more of a sucker’s game now than it ever has been.

I’m struggling to think of the last top shelf free agent who landed where most people suspected he’d go as the season came to an end. Pujols was supposed to go to Miami, wasn’t he? Cliff Lee was supposed to land in New York.  CC Sabathia preferred to stay on the west coast.  And that all worked out … differently.

I think such predictions are going to be even harder going forward than they have been. Mostly because of the new world of TV money we’ve talked about so often over the past year. The teams we think have money and the teams we think are broke are changing pretty rapidly. The risks associated with long-term, nine-figure deals aren’t as great as they were even a few years ago.  There are probably more players for top free agents now than there ever have been.

Which is not to say that Josh Hamilton will be the subject of a bidding war.  Indeed, he does have issues and even if more teams can take risks on a guy like him, it doesn’t mean they will. If anything, teams are wiser about such things now than they ever have been.

Ultimately, though, it only takes one team to give Josh Hamilton or someone like him a big deal. And, if recent history has shown anything, guessing which team that will be beforehand is damn nigh impossible.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.