A 29-year-old Jonny Gomes was a free agent two winters ago after hitting .267/.338/.541 with 20 homers and 51 RBI in 281 at-bats for the Reds. He re-signed with the Reds for $800,000.
A 33-year-old Andruw Jones was a free agent last winter after hitting .230/.341/.486 with 19 homers and 48 RBI in 278 at-bats for the White Sox. He signed with the Yankees for $2 million.
A 34-year-old Marcus Thames was a free agent last winter after hitting .288/.350/.491 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in 212 at-bats with the Yankees. He signed for the Dodgers for $1 million.
A 34-year-old Pat Burrell was a free agent last winter after hitting .252/.348/.469 with 20 homers and 64 RBI in 373 at-bats with the Rays and Giants. He re-signed with the Giants for $1 million.
A 33-year-old Juan Rivera was a free agent this winter after hitting .258/.319/.382 with 11 homers and 74 RBI in 466 at-bats for the Blue Jays and Dodgers. He re-signed with the Dodgers for $4.5 million.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti simply couldn’t wait to lock up Rivera this winter, clearly overpaying him in order to do so.
I’d put Rivera’s free agent credentials ahead of those of Thames and Burrell, but I’d say he’s a worse bet than Gomes was two years ago or Jones was last year. Rivera also disappointed in 2010, coming in at .252/.312/.409. He’s now three years removed from his last quality season, he hasn’t had an OPS better than .730 against righties since 2006 and he’s a below average defender in left field. He has his uses as a guy who can smack left-handers around and not embarrass himself against righties, but that kind of player isn’t hard to find and the going rate is $2 million or less. If the Dodgers had waited, they almost certainly would have been able to sign him for less.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?