The Curious Case of the Slow Offseason



It is now Christmas day and many of the top free agents are still available including names such as Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez. The sluggish pace of the market is a result of a few factors, the first couple being Shohei Otani’s posting and shortstop new owner Derek Jeter’s dismantling of the Miami Marlins. With the majority of the MLB contending for the services of Otani and/or Giancarlo Stanton, free agents have had to be patient for these dominos to fall before teams turned their attention to their likeness. However, now that these two stars have found new homes with the Angels and Yankees respectively, one would imagine that the market would have picked up pace. Instead, negotiations have continued at a slow clip, with the only notable signings coming in the form of SS Zack Cosart (Angels, 3 years/$38 million) and 1B Carlos Santana (Phillies, 3 years/$60 million).

For comparison, last year at this time, the majority of major free agents had already been signed, but teams are being more patient this time around opting to build their teams through trades and top prospects, while they wait out the demands of players’ agents. This can largely be attributed to last year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement which has discouraged larger market teams from going over the luxury tax line of $197 million by increasing the penalty for consecutive years of spending overage. This modification was put in place with the intention of making the league more competitive, which makes sense, because it is admittedly hard for a team like the Milwaukee Brewers to be considered on the same playing field with a payroll of $63 million when going up against the LA Dodgers with a payroll exceeding $240 million. In turn, these big market teams are curbing their traditional heavy spending methods in an effort to get beneath that 197 million-dollar threshold – and it’s working. Despite six teams (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Cubs, and Giants) paying the luxury tax last year, all but the Red Sox seem positioned to avoid the penalty in 2018.

So what does that mean for this free agent class? Well, for starters, there is less money to go around and that is especially bad news when two of the top free agent hitters, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, have Scott Boras as their agent. As his reputation affirms, Boras is seeking multi-year deals worth big money for his prized players – seven years and $200 million plus – to be exact. He has dubbed J.D. Martinez the “King Kong of Slug” and Eric Hosmer as the elite talent that will take a team to “Playoffville.” While Boras’ demands are likely farfetched (especially in this year’s market), it is not hard to imagine that he will produce the offseason’s largest contracts in these two players. What will make his job harder this year however, is the new CBA, which is limiting teams’ willingness to get into bidding wars – the very thing that allows him to reel in the crazy contracts his clients dream of.

The reality is that Martinez and Hosmer will likely sign for far less than the 7 year, 200 million dollar benchmark that Boras has established, but even when they do, what’s next for the rest of the free agent crop? The usual suspects that can be counted on to make a least one major splash each year are scrambling to get under the $197 million threshold. Is someone like 3B Mike Moustakas, who is coming off a productive .272/38-homer year, supposed to get a 100 million dollar contract from the Tampa Bay Rays? Or the Oakland Athletics to sign Jake Arietta to a multi-year deal? These are good players that will find new homes one way or another, but as the offseason drags into January they are going to have to temper their expectations as the reality of a new MLB market sets in.

As the calendar flips to 2018, one of either Boras or the teams with which he’s negotiating will have to blink at some point and contracts for the Hosmer/Martinez slugging duo will get done. After a couple months of waiting, this will finally set the market for the offseason and for better or worse, determine the earning capacities of remaining free agents. However, until then, the rest of the league will be waiting and watching as teams and agents alike adapt to the complexities that the new CBA has introduced to the 2017-2018 offseason.

Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 2

Bullpen Picstitch

If you missed part 1 click here:


Andrew Miller: As mentioned above, Miller was out for the season after needing surgery on his foot. He is a big, powerful lefty out of the bullpen and posted an improved 2.64 ERA from his prior two years with Boston in 30.2 innings before he was sidelined. Contract-wise, Miller will receive roughly $2 million this year in his final year before free agency. Chances are he will stick to the roster as he has developed into a reliable 7th inning reliever and the Red Sox are looking to see what he can do coming off of his injury.

Craig Breslow: Another lefty out of the bullpen, Breslow put it all together last putting up a 1.81 ERA and making 61 appearances. He raised his stock even more in the postseason, in which he allowed zero earned runs in his first eight appearances and  become the most reliable late inning reliever. Currently, Breslow is in the last year of a two year contract he signed last winter that will pay him around $3 million anually. He should have a spot secured as an a 7th or 8th inning reliever in the bullpen.

Junichi Tazawa: He put a decent season last year, but left the ball in the strike zone a little too much gave up 70 hits in only 68 innings. The one positive in this is he only granted 12 walks, but still allowed more base runners than most managers would like. He also had a tendency when he  came in with men on base to let up a hit before retiring the next batters. He is now in his first arbitration year and will get paid slightly above $1 million this year. He should survive the roster cuts, but he will face serious competition as a late inning reliever.


Edward Mujica: The Red Sox signed Mujica, who for most of the season was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals to a two year contract worth $9 million, but they are paying him for what he did in the first five months of the season in which he posted a 1.73 ERA and collected 35 saves. He seemed to lose it in the month of September allowing 9 runs in 7 innings and lost his closing job. He only appeared once in the postseason, against the Dodgers in the NCLS and allowed a home run in his one inning. The Red Sox are relying on Mujica going back to mid-season self in which he was one of the best closers. It seems likely that Mujica will pitch out of a set-up role in the eight inning and could take over as closer if Uehara misses time to injury.

Burke Badenhop: Outside of Jonathan Herrera, Badenhop has probably been the most overlooked acquisition this offseason. The Red Sox swapped minor league pitcher Luis Ortega for Badenhop with the Brewers early in the winter to add to their bullpen depth. This transaction didn’t gain too much attention because the Red Sox traded someone most hadn’t heard of and received a reliever from the Brewers, that even fewer people had heard of. Ultimately, it is not clear what role Badenhop could play in the Red Sox bullpen, but he was a very reliable middle reliever pitching 62.1 innings in 63 appearances to the tune of a 3.47 ERA. He will earn roughly $2 million avoiding arbitration in his final year before free agency. Whether or not he makes the roster, will largely depend on his performance in Spring Training unlike the previous relievers mentioned who are likely to have a spot saved for them.

Chris Capuano: After the announcement was made that Ryan Dempster would not pitch in 2014, the Red Sox went out and signed Chris Capuano for a one year $2.5 million that can reach as high as $5 million with incentives. This signing is part of a childhood dream for Capuano, who grew up in West Springfield rooting for the Red Sox. He made 20 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and had an ERA of 4.26. He figures to fill a swingman role in the bullpen, going multiple innings if needed and getting occasional starts in case a regular starter is injured or has to skip a start. Capuano will see a lot of innings this year whether filling in for a starter or coming out of the bullpen.


Brandon Workman: The Red Sox have two rookies in camp that have a legitimate shot to push out one of the previously named relievers for a spot in the bullpen. One of those rookies is right hander Brandon Workman. He was overlooked last year as a pitching prospect due to the abundance of other young arms that include Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman is still projected to be a starter in his future, but he is more than willing to pitch out of the bullpen if it would earn him a roster spot. He had a few stints at the professional level last year and despite struggling heavily in September with a 7.00 ERA, he was put on the postseason roster where he shined. In 8.2 playoff innings, he did not allow a single earned run receiving some well deserved popularity from the fans. Workman showed that he had the capability to pitch at the major league level, the only question is will it be enough to earn him a roster spot out of Spring Training. Chances are that the Red Sox leave him at AAA Pawtucket to start the year, but he will be the first man up if an injury occurs.

Drake Britton: The lefty quickly turned his season around, after getting arrested for a DUI in Spring Training of 2013. Britton made 17 starts between AA and AAA posting a 3.77 ERA, which was good enough to get the call to the major league team in July. He didn’t allow a run in his first 9 innings and finished the year with a 3.86 ERA. Although he is a starter by trade, the Red Sox seem to profile Britton as a reliever given how successful he was in this role last year. Britton is considered to be a longshot to make the roster this year, especially because of the new presence of Chris Capuano who is in the same role as Britton ideally would fill. This makes it very likely that Britton will start the year in Pawtucket and could potentially make a return to the major league roster at some point in 2014.

In recap, six relievers seem to have a role already geared towards him. Koji Uehara– closer, Edward Mujica– set up man, Craig Breslow– set up man, Junichi Tazawa– middle reliever, Andrew Miller– middle reliever, Chris Capuano– long reliever/spot starter

There will be fierce competition for that last bullpen spot between Burke Badenhop, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton, it’s up to each to prove in Spring Training that they have what it takes to get that last roster spot, but who will it go to?