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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

2019 Trade Deadline Highlights

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In a shocking, last-minute deal, Zack Greinke has a new home (CBS Sports).

This year’s Trade Deadline in the MLB wasn’t as boisterous as previous seasons and might rank as one of the less-exciting ones in history. There was still a good number of high-profile moves, however, and a few big names went on to new homes. Here’s a look at the more notable acquisitions of July 31, 2019 and how they will impact the teams that got the big returns.

Blue Jays trade RHP Marcus Stroman to Mets in exchange for RHP Anthony Kay, RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson

The move that unofficially kicked off trading season was a bit of a head scratcher. It had long been rumored that Toronto was shopping ace Marcus Stroman, but the team he ended up with isn’t exactly a contender. The Mets are currently four games under .500 and may not be vying for the postseason in 2019. The move is likely another part of the Mets rebuilding process, and since Noah Syndergaard stayed put, New York may have a formidable rotation next season.

Indians acquire LHP Scott Moss, OF Yasiel Puig from Reds and OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen and IF Victor Nova from Padres, Padres acquire OF Taylor Trammell from Reds, Indians acquire Reds acquire RHP Trevor Bauer from Indians

The literal biggest trade of the day was a this three-team blockbuster. Trevor Bauer firing the ball over the center field wall on Sunday after he was pulled in the fifth inning ended up being the last pitch he threw in an Indians uniform. A day later the Tribe rid itself of his petulance and pulled off a massive trade with intrastate rival Cincinnati as well as San Diego that saw Bauer go to the Reds and Reds top prospect Taylor Tramell go to the Friars. Cleveland received a host of players from both teams, most namely Yasiel Puig, who is ironically also known as a prima donna.

Though Bauer is undeniably talented when he keeps his act together and bolsters the Reds attempts to trend upward, San Diego may have won the trade with Tramell, MLB’s no. 30 overall prospect.

Rays acquire 1B Jesus Aguilar from Brewers in exchange for RHP Jacob Faria

Milwaukee was certainly brewing before the Deadline and made a commendable effort to improve its pitching. GM David Stearns’ most notable move was a straight swap with the Rays that brought back righty Jacob Faria in exchange for power hitting 1B Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar is having a down year but has proven many times that he can be deadly. He gives the Rays the big bat they’ve been seeking in their hunt for a Wild Card berth.

It’s a good move for both sides because it clears Milwaukee’s infield logjam and gives the team another quality starter. Faria never quite broke out in Tampa Bay but a change of scenery always has potential to pay dividends. After having already gotten Jordan Lyles from Pittsburgh on Monday, the Brewers made another move and got Drew Pomeranz from San Fransisco later on Wednesday. Though none of the returns are big name guys, Milwaukee is serious about making another run after coming so close last year.

Cubs acquire OF Nicholas Castellanos from Tigers in exchange for RHP Alex Lange and RHP Paul Richan.

The Cubs made their chances of taking the NL Central back even better with this move. Nicholas Castellanos has been one of the MLB’s more underrated players in recent years, largely because he was on the Tigers after the team’s glory days of the early 2010s ended. Adding him to a lineup that already includes Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez gives the Cubbies even more firepower, especially given Castellanos success vs. lefty pitchers. It’s also a great move for him personally as he gets to join a contending team at last. The Cubs are vying to appear in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, and their chances look pretty good.

Astros acquire RHP Zack Greinke from Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Corbin Martin, RHP JB Bukauskas, IF Josh Rojas and IF Seth Beer

If Houston was scary good before this trade, they’re terrifyingly good now. The Astros just added Zack Greinke to a rotation that already includes Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in a last-minute deal that wasn’t announced until after the deadline officially passed. Arizona received a package of four minor leaguers in return as the team is now officially in the rebuilding process.

Like Verlander, Greinke is in the second half of his thirties but has not declined at all and owned a 10-4 record with a 2.90 on a sub-par Diamondbacks team at the time of his departure. The six-time All-Star’s presence gives Houston the best rotation in baseball by far and should get the knees of any upcoming opponent knocking. The MLB said it best on Instagram today, “Facing Houston? You have a problem.”

Notable non-moves:

  • After being heavily rumored as top targets, Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard and Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner are still members of their longtime teams.
  • The Boston Red Sox, whose bullpen has blown 18 saves, made no moves to improve its relief core, to the amazement of the team’s fanbase.
  • The New York Yankees were thought to be Syndergaard’s top suitor, but the team did not acquire any starting pitching to aid Aaron Boone’s struggling rotation.

What was the biggest move of the deadline this year? Be sure to let us know on Twitter @HomeRunDaily.

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American League

Athletics Acquire Tanner Roark

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Tanner Roark

The Oakland Athletics have acquired right hander Tanner Roark from the Cincinnati Reds, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

As part of the deal, outfielder Jamerson Hannah will be heading to Cincinnati, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, the Reds will pick up $2.1 million of Roark’s remaining salary.

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American League

Astros Acquire Martin Maldonado

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Martin Maldonado

The Houston Astros have acquired veteran catcher Martin Maldonado from the Chicago Cubs, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

As part of the deal, outfielder/second baseman Tony Kemp will be heading to the Cubs, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome.

Maldonado has posted a .217/.285/.349 slash line this season.

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