Despite many factors pointing toward increased spending, baseball's salaries haven't seemed much more inflated this winter.
Late this season, Major League Baseball completed new broadcast deals with ESPN, Fox, and Turner Sports that will roughly double the amount of money the league receives from those three networks beginning in 2014. Couple those contracts with increasingly lucrative local TV deals, the highest regular-season attendance since 2008, the success of MLB Advanced Media, the new CBA’s restrictions on how much teams can spend in the draft and on the international market, the trend toward locking up young players before they become free agents, and the Dodgers’ apparent willingness to make their fans forget Frank McCourt by becoming big-time buyers, and the stage appeared to be set for significant offseason inflation.
It’s been less than three weeks since Sergio Romo struck out the AL MVP looking to end the World Series, and only a few prominent players have signed. However, the players who ink early have the potential to help dictate what the next few months might look like, and if an influx of cash were burning holes in baseball teams’ pockets, we would expect to see the new market rate reflected in the early returns. While it’s too soon to say with any certainty what the rest of the winter will look like, we can examine the first few signings for any evidence that a new spending boom has begun. Here’s a selection of deals signed so far compared to the contracts comparable players commanded last winter:
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Dan welcomes relievers from the murky San Diego and San Francisco ninth-inning situations to VP this week.
If there’s a pattern to the Padres’ closer situation, I can’t discern it. Bud Black’s Dale Thayer fetish seems to have subsided, and the Tom Layne era lasted all of one successfully converted save chance. Most recently, the Friars have (finally) circled back to ace setup man Luke Gregerson(Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 5%, CBS 10%), who was handed two save opps over the weekend and nailed down both. I don’t know why Gregerson is suddenly a viable closing candidate—nor why he was deemed something other than that in the first place. I also don’t know if Black will settle on Gregerson, but the right-hander’s high upside makes him a good short-term target for saves speculators. Huston Street could be back from his DL stint within a week or so, but I’d like to see it before I walk away from the closer of the moment in San Diego, because Gregerson is good.
The best pitches of the past two weeks, narrated by a guy who's trying to impress his date.
This week’s Three Best Pitches Ever Thrown This Week, which technically covers two weeks, will be narrated by a guy on a first date trying to impress his date with all his awesome baseball knowledge. Guy is sitting directly behind home plate, so he has an excellent view of these pitches, and a little bit of rib sauce on his lip.
No. 3. Jeremy Affeldt’s curve against Josh Thole, April 20.
So this guy Jamie Affeldt used to be a starter but now he’s a reliever. He’s really, really good. A lot of people wouldn’t think he was that good because he doesn’t have many saves, but saves are an antiquated way of measuring relievers, and let me just tell you Affeldt is really good. He should probably be the closer now that Brian Wilson is injured. Brian Wilson, do you know that guy? Oh, really? He’s the guy with the beard? Oh, come on, you have to know the guy with the really big beard and he was on all the Taco Bell commercials? No, it’s not a big deal, I’m just surprised you haven’t heard of him. Even my mom has heard of him! I’m not yelling. I’m just saying, he’s a pretty big deal. It would be like if I hadn’t heard of Susan Faludi or something. Oh my gosh did you see that pitch!
Cleveland says so long to Grady Sizemore (maybe), the Brewers decline two options on prominent members of their playoff team, the Giants break the bank on two left-handed relievers, and the Rockies cut a Cook but keep a Giambi.
It's no coincidence that the Red Sox are dropping games left and right given the injuries they have been dealing with recently. Youkilis had been affected for some time by the sports hernia, which was present even before his hip bursitis first flared up earlier this year. The aching lower abdominal pain from the sports hernia has been flaring up episodically, most recently on Thursday, along with the hip bursitis.
A series that will feature spectacular pitching may come down to the tiniest advantages to decide the winner.
So, let's see, for an initial checklist for maximum LCS entertainment potential, is there anything missing? Record-wise, the two best teams in National League? Check, even if we allow for the fact that the Giants weren't one of the top two teams in Clay Davenport's adjusted standings. The two best rotations in baseball? Check. Heck, it even features two of the three best defensive units in the league (via PADE), with only the already-vanquished Reds separating the Giants and Phillies. And the offenses are... well, OK, this whole clash of the titans thing only goes so far, because they're not both among the best in the league. The Phillies are, tying for third in the league in team-level True Average, but the Giants finished back in ninth place, even with Brian Sabean's ticky-tack trades to accrue incremental improvements.
Each team's got a list and is checking it twice, but not everybody gets everything they want this time of year.
As has been well-documented, the free-agent market has been extremely slow to develop; to date only 11 of the 171 players who filed for free agency have signed contracts. There is no word yet if Donald Fehr has asked Congress for a bailout.