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March 20, 2014

Overthinking It

Farewell to Free Agency?

by Ben Lindbergh


“I think the toughest thing facing all of us is the future of free agency and the limited resources that are going to be out there.” —Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, November 2013

Last week, the Braves signed Ervin Santana, which lowered the count of remaining top 50 free agents to three. One of these months, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, and Joel Hanrahan will get jobs, at which point we can officially close the book on the 2013-14 free-agent class. Even with the book cracked open, though, we can come to one conclusion: Teams just spent a fortune on free agents.

Teams always spend a fortune on free agents, of course, but this winter was bountiful even by big-league standards. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors has been keeping track of the totals, which he shared with me after updating them to include the Santana contract. Here’s a summary of annual free agent spending, in millions:

This offseason, contracts have gotten both longer and more lucrative, and clubs have cracked the $2 billion mark after staying below $1.5 billion in each of the previous six years. We can all recite the reasons. Some of the increase is attributable to inflation. Some stems from massive growth in both national and local broadcast contracts (which has given owners a larger piece of the revenue pie). And then there are the CBA’s restrictions on spending in the amateur draft and on the amateur market, which have limited the ways in which teams can flex their financial muscle in order to acquire talent.

But there’s another factor that may have helped persuade teams to spend a little extra this offseason: the names on next year’s list. A team in need of a bat at second base won’t be able to bid on Robinson Cano; they’ll have to settle for Rickie Weeks, assuming his option for 2015 doesn’t vest (or Mark Ellis or Kelly Johnson if it does). At catcher, the closest thing to Brian McCann is Russell Martin. The best first baseman is…Corey Hart? Adam LaRoche? And forget Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo; as of today, the most attractive outfielder is Colby Rasmus.

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Related Content:  Free Agency,  Extensions

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Notes from the Field: ... (03/20)
<< Previous Column
Overthinking It: The B... (03/18)
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Premium Article Overthinking It: Takea... (04/01)
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Understanding the Umpi... (03/20)

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