The price is falling for solid free agents, and the Blue Jays should take advantage.
The free agent market in the 2017-2018 MLB offseason has been quite something. Whether it’s player and agent greed, or owner collusion, or a dramatic shift in the game at valuing young, cheap talent so much more than veterans at a higher price, the offseason has been slow, and good baseball players are unemployed, with just one week remaining until pitchers and catchers report for the first organizations.
On Monday night, the New York Mets signed corner infielder and prodigious power hitter Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 Million contract. Frazier is an ideal fit for a suddenly decent, if not good, Mets offense, and he’ll slot into every day duty at third base. The fit is perfect for both teams, but you have to wonder about the price the Mets paid.
#Mets in agreement with free-agent 3B Todd Frazier on two-year, $17M contract, sources tell The Athletic. Pending a physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 6, 2018
MLB Trade Rumors had Frazier pegged at three years, $33 Million in their annual Top 50 Free Agents with Predictions post. The Mets paid half of that, and did it with lesser commitment. Early on, the Mets paid exactly what MLBTR predicted for right-fielder Jay Bruce, a considerably lesser player, for three years and $39 Million.
So maybe it’s just The Mets being The Mets, but elsewhere around the league, players are going for massive discounts. Austin Jackson signed for just two years and $6 Million. Wily Peralta? One-year at $1.53 Million. Michael Pineda? A steal for the Minnesota Twins at two-years, $10 Million.
There’s plenty of theories as to the slow market, but we won’t get into that. There are plenty of you out there who didn’t sleep through ECO-100 Introduction to Economics. And there’s plenty of speculation out there if you want to search for it.
The Blue Jays and the Slow Market
To date, the Blue Jays have signed Curtis Granderson to a $5 Million deal, traded for Yangervis Solarte, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz and Al Alburquerque. Aside from Alburquerque, they’ve done little to address their pitching situation, which includes to loss of Dominic Leone, Joe Smith, Tom Koehler and probably Brett Anderson. With a crowded outfield and newfound depth in the infield and optional utility roles, the Blue Jays offense looks set at the MLB level. Any move now would likely involve a trade.
So that leaves a rotation with a missing link, and probably a left-handed reliever capable of pitching late in ball games or to compliment Aaron Loup. And based on this year’s meager contracts given out to free agents, the options are there, and the Blue Jays would do well in exploiting this market, regardless of the ethics entwined within.
With Joe Biagini slotted into the fifth spot and few MLB-experienced options in Triple-A Buffalo, the Blue Jays would benefit greatly from another starting pitcher. Unfortunately in 2018, there remains a strong top tier of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn, who likely fall out of the Blue Jay’s budget, if we assume there’s $10-15 left to spend. One name that stick out and is no stranger to Blue Jays fans is ex-Ray Alex Cobb.
Cobb was predicted by MLBTR to go to the Minnesota Twins at four-year, $48 Million for an AAV of $12 Million. Even before the market got weird, he fit into the supposed Blue Jays budget. With just one week to report to Spring Training, the Blue Jays might be able to jump on Cobb for a lesser term, perhaps three years, and a lower AAV, maybe around $10 million. Going beyond three years seems unwise at this point, as Cobb is just three years off Tommy John Surgery and is still working his way back to 100%, with a new repertoire of pitches. That being said, he was quite good in 2017:
|6 Yr||6 Yr||48||35||3.50||115||700.0||648||290||272||65||204||10||570||29||111||3.68||1.217||8.3||0.8||2.6||7.3||2.79|
At approximately three-years, $30 Million for Cobb, the Blue Jays shore up their rotation (considering good health) in 2018 and become a much better team. It also covers the loss of one of J.A. Happ or Marco Estrada after the season, allowing a young SP like Ryan Borucki to slot in in 2019.
Bring in The Lefty
Beyond a clear-cut No.5 starter, the Blue Jays could use a little help in the back of the bullpen, and a lefty reliever should be atop their list. And good news, everyone: Tony Watson is available.
Surprisingly not acquired by the Blue Jays yet in his career, Pirates RP Tony Watson has been worth 9.8 bWAR over seven MLB seasons, never tossing more than 77 or less than 41 IP in any season. He’s been consistently good his whole career, posting an above-average ERA+ in every season since his rookie outing in 2011, and posting a 144 career mark.
|7 Yr||7 Yr||.660||2.68||474||87||30||453.0||365||143||135||43||127||15||398||144||3.60||1.086||7.3||0.9||2.5||7.9||3.13|
Relievers have been one of the few groups this season to actually get paid, with guys like Addison Reed making $16.25 Million over the next two seasons with the Minnesota Twins. But as of right now, with a week remaining in the offseason and Tony Watson still unsigned, the Blue Jays could jump on the guy and potentially land him on a deal in the neighborhood of two years and $10 Million. Coincidentally, this is a slight discount from what MLBTR predicted at two years and $12 Million. They also had him going to the Blue Jays.
But let’s also be realistic, and consider that other teams know that they too can wait out free agents this offseason. We saw this coming a bit with the rather mediocre class of 2018, but no one really expect it to be this bad. Eventually, these players will have homes. They have to. Why not have them come to Toronto?
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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