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Why Has the Hot Stove Been Cold?

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Lorenzo Cain received a five-year, $80 million contract from the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of last week.  Cain is a fine defensive player with a knack for clutch hitting, so the fact he received a contract like this was no surprise.  The only surprise was that it took until January 25th for a free agent to receive a contract longer than three years.

Everyone in baseball seems to have an opinion on why the market is historically slow.  The blame game is being played by front offices and agents.  The truth is that not one issue can be tied to the “frozen stove” of this offseason.  A variety of influences have brought the usual free agent frenzy to a sudden halt.

Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Players Union and Major League Baseball reached an agreement on a new CBA in December 2016.  The competitive balance tax threshold that was part of the CBA enforces a financial penalty to any team that’s goes over the threshold (20% for first-time offenders, 30% for the second time, and 50% after that).

This annually growing number ($195 million in 2017) is an obvious deterrent for small market teams, but large market teams seem weary as well.  The threshold is actually creating a competitive balance just not in the way the players envisioned.  Teams are treating the threshold like the two words that scare the Players Union the most, “Salary Cap.”

Contract length

I mentioned earlier Lorenzo Cain’s watershed moment of the offseason.  Cain has so far been the exception to the implied rule being followed by 30 clubs on contract length. The consensus among teams is that contracts exceeding three years do not benefit them from an economic standpoint.  Teams have shown a collective unwillingness to go beyond three years for the remaining 100 plus free agents.

Teams have countered this approach by offering fewer years and more money to players.  Players like Jay Bruce (Mets) and Carlos Santana (Phillies) received three-year deals, but AAV’s of $13 million and $20 million respectively.

The red flag being raised by the players is that talented free agents worthy of long-term contracts are being shut out.  Eric Hosmer is a 28-year old MLB All-Star and perennial Gold Glover, and in past offseasons’ would be the type of player to receive a 4-year plus contract from a team in need.  Nonetheless, he is sitting at home on Feburary 3rd without a contract for 2018 let alone beyond.

Shin-Soo Choo and Carl Crawford are just two examples of players who have not lived up to the backend of their lengthy agreements.  Teams have paid the price for bad contracts like these, and now it appears players like Hosmer are feeling the effects as well.

Next year’s free agent class

This season’s free agent class has all-stars to boot.  However, next year’s class is composed of superstars.  Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson headline the 2018 free agent class.

Teams could be pinching pennies this year to go after the big names next year.  A front office can justify to an owner going over the tax threshold for Manny Machado a lot easier than doing so for Mike Moustakas.

What’s Next?

The idea of team collusion and a boycott of Spring Training has been discussed in the media by agents.  MLBPA has stalled on pace of play discussions with MLB supposedly because of the number of remaining free agents.  Pitchers and Catchers start reporting to Spring Training as early as February 12th.

The tension between the players and MLB is growing.  A work stoppage is not immanent.  However, history tells us not to test the resolve of the players.

 

 

 

American League

Yankees’ Luis Severino Alters Diet to Improve Late-Season Energy

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New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino will be entering an important season as he tries to prove that he is a legit ace for a team that bolstered it’s starting rotation this offseason.

And that means a change in his diet.

Severino has altered his diet, cutting a number of snacks, including his favorite twice-fried plantains, out of his diet in an effort to avoid late-season fatigue.

“It’s not easy, it’s tough” Severino said, according to ESPN’s Coley Harvey.

“When you are at the finish line and you feel like you need a little bit more than five days to be ready, you know that something’s going on,” Severino said.

Severino made the decision to change his diet following the Yankees’ Divisional Series lost to World Series Champions the Boston Red Sox.

“Even though I feel like he was certainly healthy, he probably dealt with some fatigue issues with being a young pitcher in this league, and for the second consecutive year kind of getting around that 200-inning standpoint,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

“But in a lot of ways, we saw the normal progression of a young star pitcher. And even though he had some struggles in the second half, he had some flashes where he pitched really well for us, righted the ship a little bit.”

Severino still could be the starter on Opening Day.

“I would say there’s a very good chance of that,” Boone said. “We hadn’t had those kind of conversations exactly yet. But my expectation is that he would be that guy.”

Severino noted that the diet change was hard.

“I hate eating vegetables,” Severino said.


Where I came from, we just eat anything we see in the fridge, fried and fast food,” Severino said. “But we’re eating more vegetables and stuff like that, and get your body going faster and then recover fast. So that’s my main stuff, focusing on my workouts and avoiding doing a lot of weights that maybe make me a lot more tired.”

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American League

Yankees Keeping Tabs on Manny Machado

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Don’t completely count the New York Yankees out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes just yet, because they are simply playing the waiting game.

According to SNY.tv’s Andy Martino, the Yankees are keeping tabs on Machado with the hopes that a golden opportunity arises.

While they aren’t interested in Machado at shortstop, they would play him at third base and move Miguel Andujar to first base should they be able to haul in Machado.

While nothing is imminent, and even though the report states that a deal is unlikely, there is no counting the Yankees out of it just yet as Spring Training approaches.

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American League

Athletics Sign Brett Anderson

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The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with left hander Brett Anderson, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.

Anderson is taking a physical on Tuesday.

Anderson pitched to the tune of a 4.48 ERA for the A’s last season.

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