This time last year, only three of the top twenty free agents remained on the market.
After Mike Leake signed a five-year deal with the Cardinals yesterday, ten of the top twenty free agents are still unsigned.
Outfielders Alex Gordon, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes are still out there. So are Chris Davis, Howie Kendrick, and Daniel Murphy. Ian Desmond will play shortstop for someone next season. Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, and Kenta Maeda are waiting for a rotation to land in.
If you want a bargain, dip below the top twenty, and you can still find some pretty good talent that can more than fill holes: Doug Fister, Asdrubal Cabrera, Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, Ian Kennedy, Mat Latos, Juan Uribe, Chris Carter, and Justin Morneau.
It might be a case of too much talent available in one year. It might be a case of players over-valuing themselves. It could be a case of teams waiting for prices to come down a bit.
Whatever, there is a lot of talent available for this time of the year.
Look at a guy like Chris Davis. Why has his market not developed quicker? I think it’s that the prices for these guys is going up so much, teams aren’t willing to sign as many big named guys anymore. Gone are the days the Yankees sign five big-ticket free agents, at positions they already had filled with big-ticket free agents the year before.
Chris Davis hit forty-seven home runs and drove in one hundred seventeen runs. Power is a rare commodity lately. So you would think clubs would be lining up to get him. That’s what his agent Scott Boras is thinking as well.
But if you are going to sign Chris Davis, you need to be a contender and you need to be in a big enough market to have that kind of money. Oh, and you need to need a first baseman.
Look at the AL West. The Rangers shop at the Dollar General store, and have Moreland and Fielder. The Astros could use him, but won’t spend the money. Seattle picked up Adam Lind, and has Jose Montero. LA has Pujols. Oakland is budget strapped.
The AL Central is no friendlier for Davis. Detroit is the kind of team that throws millions of dollars at free agents, but they have the best first baseman on the planet in Miguel Cabrera. Kansas City has Hosmer. The White Sox have Abreu. Minneapolis is stuck with Joe Mauer’s horrible contract for seventy-nine more years, and the Indians wouldn’t spend the money even if they didn’t just sign Mike Napoli.
In the East, Boston, New York and Toronto don’t need a first baseman. Tampa Bay can barely afford to field a team as it is. That leaves Baltimore. His old team. The team that made him an offer, then pulled it off the table when he balked.
You can do this same drill in the National League and come up about the same. LA, Arizona, and San Francisco have first basemen. San Diego used up its stupidity last year. Colorado won’t spend the money. (The wild card here is the Giants.)
The Reds can’t afford to supply bats and balls this year. The Pirates won’t. Neither will Milwaukee. The Cubs are set. The Cardinals might.
In the NL East, the Mets don’t spend money, being in such a tiny media market. The Phillies have Ryan Howard. Washington has Zimmerman. Atlanta and Miami are non-spenders.
There aren’t a whole lot of places for Chris Davis. Baltimore, Saint Louis, and maybe San Francisco. That’s it.
He’s not alone.
While there are some quality outfielders available, there is an overabundance of great outfield talent out there via trade as well. Clubs can wait it out.
Don’t get me wrong here. These free agents will find a home. And they will not have to take on second jobs to make ends meet. But I don’t expect we will see the eye-popping contracts we saw earlier in the offseason.
Then again, Arte Moreno has yet to do something stupid.
Give him time.