ESPN is way off with its early free agent calls

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By division, here’s a list of teams I can see opening up the wallets for a $10 million-plus-per-year pitcher this winter:

Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees
Royals, Tigers, White Sox
Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers
Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies
Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Pirates
Dodgers

And here’s a list of the elite pitching free agents available this winter:

Zack Greinke

I think it should go without saying that demand is going to exceed supply in a big way.

And that’s why ESPN’s Jim Bowden and Dan Szymborski look kind of foolish for a couple of their early calls.

Edwin Jackson is, in my mind, pretty obviously the No. 2 pitching free agent available this winter. He’s 29, he has practically the same ERA as Greinke the last three years (Greinke has a 104 ERA+, Jackson is at 102) and he seems to be on the upswing, if K/BB ratio and WHIP count for anything. I’ll be stunned if he has to settle for less than $48 million over four years this winter and my guess is that he gets something closer to $70 million over five years.

ESPN’s insiders aren’t thinking that far ahead, though. Bowden, in his column, says Jackson has only “proved himself to be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter.” He labels the Royals as the best fit for him, putting the Indians and Marlins as alternatives. He obviously doesn’t think the bigger spenders will go after him. But then, that’s the typical lack of insight one gets from Bowden.

(Bowden also has Fernando Rodney going back to the Angels or maybe the Giants or Dodgers in his column, not realizing that the Rays are just going to exercise their $2.5 million option on his services.)

I expect a lot more from Szymborski, and it’s rare that he disappoints. However, he lists Jackson and B.J. Upton among his five free agent bargains, ones “that won’t break the wallet.” And while I agree that those two look like better values than several other top free agents, there’s no way, no how that either goes off at a bargain price.

This winter is going to reveal that there’s a lot more money to be spent than quality players to spend it on. It’s going to take a lot more digging to find any bargains

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.