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The Steak is Served. Was it worth it?

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Back in January, Scott Boras said this to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick regarding his then un-signed free agent clients, Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse:

“People call me all the time and say, ‘Man, your players aren’t signed yet. Well, it doesn’t really matter what time dinner is when you’re the steak.”

Now steak is served, and steak costs approximately $12 million a year over four years for the Bourn strip and $11 million a year for three years for the filet Lohse. Good deals on steak, or market price?

That’s the big question now, as the two most high-profile free agents subject to draft pick compensation have finally found homes.  Did the market work how it was intended to work, or did these two get boned because of the draft picks that were the cost of doing business with them?

I can sort of see it both ways.

On the one hand, in a vacuum, I’d say that Bourn and Lohse are basically worth what they got. This isn’t economics I’m talking about here. It’s gut. It’s me looking at their performances in recent years, their ages, their skill sets and consulting with all of the intangible crap that floats around ife and saying “yeah, that seems about right.”  $48 million and $33 million, respectively, are numbers that, if my team signed them for, I’d probably be able to live with. And if some team signed them for significantly more, I’d say “hmm, seems like an overpay.”

On the other hand, free agents don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist in a market in which other guys sorta like them sign. And I see B.J. Upton and Jake Peavy and Edwin Jackson and a lot of other free agents getting deals that are either worth much more or, given the relative quality of the players involved, seem to be more valable for the guys in question than what Bourn and Lohse got. Put differently, I can’t help but think that those “overpays” I mentioned above would have come to pass but for the free agent compensation.

And now, with everyone of any stature signed, people are going to revisit that free agent compensation thing. Some are going to argue that it’s unfair. Some are going to argue that it worked the way it was intended and it kept free agent salaries from getting out of control. I don’t know that it truly worked either effect particularly well.

Shane Victorino showed that if you’re not quite worth a $13.3 million risk in a qualifying offer, you still can get that much times three on the market whereas, if he were better and worth the qualifying offer, he’d get nothing approaching it. The top end guys showed that owners will still pay near-silly money for free agents. Overall, there wasn’t a ton of discipline exacted on the market. But if there was, it seemed to fall disproportionately on a couple of guys.

In that sense I’m not sure it worked for either the owners or the players, whatever they intended when they negotiated the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. Because I can’t imagine that the desired effect by either side was “a couple of free agents will get what, in vacuum, sorta seems fair to some fans.”

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.