We’re finally starting to see teams pick up the pace with free agent acquisitions. While that won’t make up for what was seemingly a barren winter of hibernation for Hot Stove activity, it’s still objectively exciting to finally see some movement in the free agent market. With that being said, there are still a few teams that have been largely dormant when it comes to handing out major-league contracts to free agents and there’s one team that rules them all.
That team is the Pirates. As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick noted, the Braves, Marlins, Orioles, and Rays recently got on the scoreboard by signing players to major-league deals. That leaves the the Pirates as the only team that has yet to sign a free agent to a major-league contract. Of course, they’ve still got a month to fix that. The Pirates did sign Michael Saunders, but that was still a minor-league deal and probably not the kind of acquisition that would light the world on fire.
In fact, the aforementioned teams all share the same bleak projection from PECOTA (with the exception of the Rays, whom PECOTA doesn’t hate as much). Those teams are all projected to finish either in last place or next-to-last place, so maybe it makes sense that they’d choose to stand pat with an eye on the future. But as far as this offseason is concerned, a handful of teams have remained dormant and the Pirates appear to have enjoyed their hibernation.
One team that has been pretty busy over the offseason is the Giants. While their trades for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria may have moved the needle a bit in terms of helping them get out of the cellar and at least approach decency this season, their latest rumored move is a bit of a no-brainer. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Giants have started taking their first steps toward signing Madison Bumgarner to a contract extension.
While Morosi did make sure to note that there are no active talks at this time, you have to figure that the Giants and Bumgarner’s camp are eventually going to come together and make a deal happen. Even though Bumgarner had a bit of an off-year for his standards—mostly due to the dirt-bike misadventures that cost him half the season—he still figures to be one of the game’s top starters. He’s only a year removed from finishing back-to-back seasons with five-plus WARP and may have been on his way to posting similar numbers if not for the biking mishap.
It will be safe to assume that he’s going to receive a much larger contract than the seven-year, $46.06 million deal (with a $12 million team option for 2019) that he’s currently on. As long as he returns to his normal form in 2018 and stays upright on the dirt track then Bumgarner should be in line for a big payday at some point in the near future.
Meanwhile, a pitcher still waiting on a payday in 2018 is Jake Arrieta. We are one day away from the Grapefruit League and Cactus League getting things rolling with games and yet Arrieta is still on the market as a free agent. It’ll be Opening Day before you know it, which probably explains why the former Cy Young winner is trying to find a new team sooner rather than later.
One team that is reportedly interested is the Phillies. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Philadelphia and Arrieta have had discussions. Heyman also pointed out that the Phillies’ front office worked with Arrieta back in Baltimore and would love to have a reunion in Philly. However, the main stumbling block for now appears to be that the Phillies want Arrieta on a short-term deal. Basically, that would be a non-starter for a 31-one-year old prominent free agent who would presumably be looking for a long-term deal.
Still, since we’re getting closer and closer to Opening Day, that means Arrieta’s chances of getting a long-term deal will get slimmer and slimmer with each day that passes by. So while Arrieta is warranted in his desire for a long-term deal, leaving things this late could mean that he’ll end up having to take a short-term deal and that would allow him to fall into Philadelphia’s hands. It would also mark the end of what has been a pretty good offseason for the Phillies, especially after they made an early splash by signing Carlos Santana back in December.
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