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Thread: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

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    Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    I thought this was interesting.

    Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes
    Tom Verducci > INSIDE BASEBALL Posted: Tuesday January 20, 2009 12:09PM; Updated: Tuesday January 20, 2009 2:39PM

    Each passing day brings us closer to spring training and the remaining free agents to a cold reality check, if not forced retirement for a few.

    The big money, except for what the Dodgers have socked away for Manny Ramirez, is gone. Teams such as the Mets, Angels, Nationals, Brewers, Athletics, Yankees and Cardinals still have money to spend, but not the kind for bidding wars. This is how one general manager described the remnants of the market: about 70 major league free agents competing for about 50 remaining roster spots, who are seeking about $100 million in contracts, but with only $60 million available. Talk about your squeeze plays.

    Free agents have been smacked down by a double whammy: the chilling effects of the economic recession and the industry-wide trend of placing more and more value on young players under control. Draft pick compensation, for instance, has become a real hurdle in the way of signing free agents.

    Another GM separated what's left of the free-agent field into two sections: those that made a mistake by not accepting arbitration and everybody else. "The agents who should have taken arbitration will be less willing to admit a mistake," the GM said, "so they may stay out longer."

    The most head-scratching cases of arbitration rejections include Jason Varitek of the Red Sox, Orlando Cabrera of the White Sox, Jon Garland of the Angels and Ben Sheets of the Brewers. All of them were likely to be guaranteed between $9 million and $12 million in arbitration. Instead they might see a fraction of that guaranteed money, their value further diminished by costing a new employer draft picks.

    "A guy like Juan Cruz went out looking for three years, $15 million," one executive said. "Now he might see two years and half of that."

    Players soon will be under pressure to find some way into somebody's camp, as evidenced by Omar Vizquel on the verge of taking a minor league deal with Texas. Others don't seem fazed by the new reality. One journeyman reliever, for instance, turned down a $2 million offer, saying he would retire before taking that kind of money. Andy Pettitte did not bite on a one-year, $10 million offer from the Yankees, though a baseball source said he has been weighing a lesser offer to return to the Astros.

    And what about older players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Garret Anderson, Nomar Garciaparra, Moises Alou, Luis Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Cliff Floyd, Jim Edmonds and the like? This kind of market could be career-ending for some, as it was last year for Kenny Lofton, Shawn Green, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa. Unlike Vizquel, some former stars will not be interested in going to camp on a minor league deal.

    The second-tier pitching market (Oliver Perez, Randy Wolf, Braden Looper, Sheets) will do OK, though not to the level those players expected. Whatever else is left on the market will depend on how soon such players want to acknowledge that this is one lousy time to still expect the big money. The pileup of available catchers alone is ominous (Rodriguez, Varitek, Brad Ausmus, Gary Bennett, Henry Blanco, Paul Lo Duca, Sal Fasano, Javier Valentin). Last year Kyle Lohse did not sign a contract until March 14. How many Kyle Lohses will be sitting at home this March?

    Hamels vs. Shields
    On May 12, 2006, the Phillies called up Cole Hamels to make his major league debut. Nineteen days later the Rays called up James Shields to make his major league debut. They have been similar pitchers ever since, even meeting in the 2008 World Series:


    GS W-L ERA IP
    Hamels 84 38-23 3.43 543
    Shields 85 32-24 3.96 554


    Similar, right? Not when it comes to how they're paid. (Shields signed a multi-year contract in January 2008; Hamels did so one year later.) Take a look at their annual salaries from 2007 through 2011:


    Year Shields Hamels
    2007 $394,900 $400,000
    2008 $1,000,000 $500,000
    2009 $1,500,000 $4,350,000
    2010 $2,500,000 $6,650,000
    2011 $4,250,000 $9,500,000
    Total $9,644,900 $21,400,000


    Why is Hamels worth $11,755,100 more than Shields? It all goes back to when they were called up the big leagues. By starting his service time just 19 days earlier, the Phillies allowed Hamels to qualify for arbitration a year earlier -- as a "Super Two" this year. Shields, like most players, would not have been eligible for arbitration until three full service years, or in his case, 2010. Hamels benefited greatly from the leverage of a slightly earlier callup.

    By the way, Hamels pitched two games in those 19 days in question. The Phillies were 1-1 in those games; Hamels threw 11 1/3 innings. Those 11 1/3 innings cost the Phillies $11.755 million, or almost exactly $1 million per inning. That was one very expensive callup.

    To be on the safe side, clubs with an eye on the compounding cost of early callups have figured out that they're better off waiting until late May to call up a top prospect. (Super Twos are based on a percentage of qualifying two-plus players, not a specific date). Maybe it was just coincidence, but Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (May 25), Jay Bruce of the Reds (May 27) and Mike Aviles of the Royals (May 29) all came up late enough last year to most likely avoid being Super Twos.
    "Now that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good white boy like that."

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    Quote Originally Posted by redsfandan View Post
    "A guy like Juan Cruz went out looking for three years, $15 million," one executive said. "Now he might see two years and half of that."
    Where do I sign?

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    I think the economy will finally settle down some of the crazy spending that has happened in the past and will cause teams to stop and evaluate talent a little better

    To put it simply, no more 4 year/$40 Million deals for the Carlos Silva's of the baseball world

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    This is a great article to explain how the face of baseball is changing. I don't know all the details of baseball rules, but I was aware of why the Reds waited to bring up Jay Bruce last year. Imagine the posts, if we had brought him up the way the Phillies brought up Hammels.

    "11 million for 30 at bats!!!", Krivsky is mad...

    I think what it really shows is that teams in the past were making so much money, that they didn't care if they threw away a million here, 5 million there. But now that the money is getting tighter and tighter...guess who pays (or doesn't get paid)?

    Now normally it's the fan. But I think baseball is almost at the break point where fans will just say no thanks, if they raise prices any more. So now the "blue colar" players (and veterans) will take the hit.

    I think it will be interesting to see if the union between players that are "stars and paid" will stay strong with the ones waiting their turn or the ones who never get it.
    Last edited by Red in Atl; 01-20-2009 at 07:11 PM.

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    We seem to have a bifurcated market developing. There are a few FA's who due to relatively young age, consistent performance, and all around game, constitute good value. They are demanding high dollar, long term contracts and getting them from the big market teams. The remaining FA's have enough warts to constitute substantial risk for the smaller market teams still shopping. Moreover, the market value for these players is declining. Some clubs are upside down on contracts....they owe more to players than their declining market values. This downward trend in the market value of 2nd tier FA's make longer term deals even more dicey. Instead of taking on more 2nd tier players, teams seem more likely to want to trade the ones they have for prospects, with the receiving team absorbing most of the contract as well.

    Like many, I am somewhat disappointed that the Reds did not fill certain holes. Most of the available players within their price range, however, carried too much risk. Those available by trade constituted a short term fix for a high price in prospects. IMO, Walt acted wisely and got about the best he could get without overpaying in an uncertain market. Likewise, I believe he did well last year in getting value in return for Griffey and Dunn. The Reds strategy is clear. They are investing heavily in the farm system. It may be frustrating for those of us tired of delaying gratification, but I think it is the only realistic strategy they can employ that has any chance of success.

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    I love that free agents aren't getting what they want. It's good to see organizations being more intelligent about money.

    I hope we see more 1 and 2 year contracts on the horizon, so that a club isn't stuck with a bad contract for 5 or 6 years.
    Who's on first?

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    Or back like the good ole days when players stayed with one team from the time they were drafted until the day they retired

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    The Reds really need to jump in on this. If you think about it now is the time to go after a guy like Sheets on a long term deal. The market is depressed, but it’s not going to stay that way. What you sign Sheets, Wolf, or Perez for now is going to be a bargain two-three years down the road when the market corrects. Offer up something like 5 years 33-36 Million to Sheets and you've got yourself a relatively young quality 1 to 2 pitcher at a pretty great rate. Sure they would be up against the Cap wall this year, but a few years down the road, you’d be looking pretty good if that’s all you paid for a player with the talent of Sheets.
    @#$% my @#$%^*&

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    But if you were Sheets in a depressed market would you sign a long term deal? It makes more sense for the players to sign short term deals and then hit the market again in a year or two if they don't find a team that will match their price.
    "Now that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good white boy like that."

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    Re: Cold reality check for remaining free agents, plus more notes

    Quote Originally Posted by RED VAN HOT View Post
    Like many, I am somewhat disappointed that the Reds did not fill certain holes. Most of the available players within their price range, however, carried too much risk. Those available by trade constituted a short term fix for a high price in prospects. IMO, Walt acted wisely and got about the best he could get without overpaying in an uncertain market. Likewise, I believe he did well last year in getting value in return for Griffey and Dunn. The Reds strategy is clear. They are investing heavily in the farm system. It may be frustrating for those of us tired of delaying gratification, but I think it is the only realistic strategy they can employ that has any chance of success.
    I agree 100%.While I would love to have Nady or Swisher there is no way I'd give up Baily or any other decent prospects.We would only get Nady for 1 year and there are still free agents just as good as Swisher that the Reds could sign for even less $$$$$.


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