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The Steak is Served. Was it worth it?


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.”

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

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The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.