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Free agent market slow, but players who have signed have exceeded expectations

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The winter meetings are near the end — many execs are leaving Vegas tonight — and once again, the free agent market has moved rather slowly. Last year’s free agent market was perhaps the slowest in recent memory. This offseason, only 11 multi-year contracts have been signed by free agents to date. Six have been for two years, three have been for three years, one for four years, and one for six years.

Despite another slowly-moving free agent market, the players are optimistic because those that have signed contracts have exceeded expectations in terms of total value, per Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal. Patrick Corbin got $140 million, Nathan Eovaldi got $68 million, Andrew McCutchen got $50 million. Heck, even Lance Lynn coming off of a bad year got $30 million from the Rangers.

For comparison, as the offseason began, Fancred’s insider Jon Heyman (and an unnamed “expert”) made predictions about what the various free agent markets would get. Heyman and the expert predicted $100 million and $85 million, respectively, for Corbin, who got $140 million. They predicted $45 million and $64 million, respectively, for Eovaldi, who got $68 million. And they foresaw $39 million and $60 million for McCutchen, who got $50 million. Heyman predicted Charlie Morton would take the $17.9 million qualifying offer and the expert predicted he’d sign a one-year, $17 million deal. Morton got two years and $30 million. Heyman predicted 2/$16M for Lance Lynn and the expert only went a million higher at 2/$17M. He got 3/$30M.

Heyman isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so let’s also glance at the predictions from MLB Trade Rumors. 6/$129M for Corbin, 4/$60M for Eovaldi, 3/$45M for McCutchen, 2/$32M for Morton, and 2/$16M for Lynn. MLBTR hit a lot closer to the center of the dartboard, so to speak, but generally the players still got a bit more than anticipated, which is good, and justifies the optimism. Hopefully the trend continues over the coming two or three months.

Going forward, though, we probably should adjust our expectations of the winter meetings. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times brought up a great point, tweeting, “One problem with the Winter Meetings is they are still marketed as a news-making event at a time when executives no longer feel urgency to make news at said event.” All of the execs and journalists have access to one another via cell phones, so it’s become more of a hobnobbing event than a place to wheel and deal. These days, a deal could just as easily happen in the days leading up to or following the winter meetings. Maybe it’s just the new normal that we’ll be going into February with handfuls of free agents still looking for a new home.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.