Open Thread: The difference is at the top of the free agent market


In his latest column, Jeff Passan discusses the differences between this year’s free agent class and that of a similarly weak class, 2006-2007. While he starts off with the small differences, the multiyear deals for marginal and backup players, like a good columnist he make the strongest point towards the middle:

Most striking is at the top end. Three years ago, Alfonso Soriano got $136 million, Barry Zito $126 million and Carlos Lee $100 million. The Red Sox shelled out $103.1 million for Daisuke Matsuzaka

Notice, too, that three of the four teams listed no longer have cash to spend. The Giants have spent their winter signing second-tier free agents, when what they really need is a middle of the order bat. The Cubs, with plenty of up the middle needs, have had to settle for Marlon Byrd in center while trading away Milton Bradley for a bad pitcher. The Astros have a left side of the infield that will probably get on base less in less than 30 percent of their at bats.

Even put in the context of the 2006-2007 market these weren’t good deals. The Cubs, Astros, and Giants didn’t receive much praise for these overpriced signings that year. Revenues were peaking, which caused the players to be temporarily overvalued. I’m not sure anyone had that kind of foresight back then, but even without that benefit most analysts thought that none of those three players warranted the deals they received. If the Yankees had signed CC Sabathia to the same seven-year, $161 million contact that off-season, I don’t think we’d look back at it with the same disapproval as we do the three actual signings from that off-season.

If baseball has benefitted in one good way from this recession, it’s a more proper valuation of players. Corner outfielders on the wrong side of 30 no longer get $100 million deals. Questionable pitchers don’t get six year contracts. There are exceptions, of course, but in general it seems baseball has been moving away from these big money deals. I think that’s a good trend, as long as it applies to the players on this year’s market. The right free agents — the ones not quite 30 who have a track record of durability and elite performance — should still get paid. I hope we see more movement towards this over the next few off-seasons.

So, after seeing zero comments on this thread for an hour, we’ll just leave it up as tonight’s open thread. Enjoy.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. J says:

    I did a double check on my computer when I saw that there were zero comments. I viewed the post about 45 minutes ago, and when I looked at the site again and saw no comments, I was SHOCKED. I have never seen that on RAB before.

    • The Evil Empire says:

      It’s saturday evening

      • andrew says:

        During the most uneventful time of baseball season.

        But I agree, RAB has been a lonely place the past week or so. Hopefully things will pick up soon.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

          In complete seriousness here:

          It’s because TSJC isn’t here.

          Come on, we all kow it’s true. The dude sparks conversation.

          • Evil Empire says:

            He does, but I dunno if he’d have made a difference on such a boring day. The dude is awesome but I doubt TSJC’s absence makes much of an impact on the website’s activity.

  2. The Evil Empire says:

    The devaluation of players is good for baseball its fans and ownership. However, it’s bad for the players.

    • Ed says:

      It’s good for ownership. It’s bad for players. It’s neutral for the fans.

      • jscape2000 says:

        Agreed. I don’t know how it could be bad for baseball unless it sparks a labor war.

        • Zack says:

          What do the players union really have to complain about? They have guaranteed contracts and no salary cap

          • Ed says:

            Not much, but they really haven’t had much to complain about in a long time. About all the union will complain about is the free agent compensation system dragging down certain players.

            Once the players got free agency and arbitration, the labor disputes are usually about the owners wanting to find ways to limit how much they pay the players.

            • Chris says:

              They can complain that the players get the smallest percentage of revenue of any of the major sports. And it’s not a structural thing (i.e. it’s not that teams spend more on the minors causing them to spend less on the majors) since it’s a recent change with the current CBA.

            • OldYanksFan says:

              Doesn’t lower player salaries allow small market teams a better shot at getting better players?

              Even if the premiere talent is high, guys like JD, Abreu and many other players are affordable to almost any team. Even Pittsburg and KC could afford JD at 2/$16m (if it would do them any good, anyway).

    • Bonos says:

      What it is really bad for is minor league systems. The market is busily correcting. All kinds of average players to be had at 2 to 3 mil.

    • Evilest Empire says:

      Our names were way too similar. I altered mine a little to change things up a bit.

  3. dan says:

    Way to mess up to the silent treatment, J. Didn’t you get the memo?

  4. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    Who’s as bored as mud right now?

    [Raises hand]

  5. I’m so pissed the Twilight Zone marathon is over already on Sci-Fy. I watched it all day yesterday. Best part of New Years Day.

    • JGS says:

      eh. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen them all because they do that same marathon three or four times a year, but a lot of them strike me as really really really cheesy. Some are awesome, but most really aren’t

  6. J says:

    ALCS Game 2 is on MLB Network right now. Not sure if anyone else mentioned it, but a good way to get rid of the boredom of a lack of baseball.

  7. This is ridiculous.


    I love how the shoppers are walking past as if nothing’s wrong.

    • Tank the Frank says:

      And people are afraid the Chinese are going to take over the world… Gimme a break.

      • Well, we sure as shit aint. Did you hear the latest job numbers? We spent the last decade without any net job gain, first time in US history. Also, even with the rebound the stock market is at the same levels it was 6-7 years ago. So if you bought an index fund in 2003, you didn’t make a dime in all those years. Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn no longer exist. It’s estimated there are 7 million homes waiting to be foreclosed. 1 mil would be a lot in a normal year.

        • Zack says:

          So you’re an optimist?

          • Personally, sure. The economy is like the weather, does no good to complain and you can still make money in bad times. My biz will be fine.

            But for country overall and the especially next few years? No way. Real estate bubbles don’t fix themselves overnight, the Fed alone has driven the debt so high that it figures to be a drag on GDP for the next 10 years or so. Not my opinion, that’s straight from the CBO. Health care bill will likely be a drag on jobs as well. There’s just not a lot of good news out there, if you listen to most economists. Even the recent recovery is a leveling off from the disaster of last year.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

      This comment made me laugh:

      “The Chinese should have hired some of the Al-Queida explosives experts they help sponser, that way they could have killed two birds with one stone – allow AlQueida the opportunity to practice their craft to terrorize the free world, and get their building successfully demolished.”

  8. Anyone else see Yankeeography: 2009?

    I thought it was much more entertaining than the MLB produced WS DVD…



  9. A.D. says:

    I’m going to go ahead and say the “correction” is good for the fans, teams & owners. Less complaints and being “bogged down” by overpaid players. As it stands MLB players union is considered one of the strongest in the country (let alone sports) which is essentially because it forefits young players salaries for older.

    Oddly the main help has been not paying middling vets to solid vets more than they deserve (minus Alex Cora) and giving young players more oppertunities because of their salary advantage.

  10. Tank the Frank says:

    How’s everyone’s new year so far?

    I’m only asking because mine sucks. I really don’t care about yours. I hate 2010. I know she’s just a baby, so I’ll give her time, but my lovely, lovely girlfriend already broke up with me. Did she plan that shit? Was that her new year’s resolution? I mean…who does that?

    I guess she figures Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Might as well knock it out asap.

    • radnom says:

      How/when did she break up with you?

      • Mike Pop says:

        All his talk about ‘keeping it real’ got on her last nerve.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        Last night. She gave me the double-whammy:

        1. I don’t have the same feelings for you anymore
        2. I’ve started seeing someone else

        Which in effect is like kicking my left nut and then immediately turning to kick my right nut.

        Love is a mysterious fish….

        • radnom says:

          That first point sucks but honestly, if she already started seeing someone else she isn’t as “lovely, lovely” as you thought.
          Take this as an opportunity to start 2010 off right. It might suck now, but if anything you dodged a bullet.

          • Meh, maybe she started seeing someone else, or maybe she just didn’t want to argue with him about it.

            • radnom says:

              So she would rather lie and hurt his feelings rather than have a mature break up conversation?

              Yeah, my point stands regardless.

              • J says:

                That’s a shitty thing to do. People should break up BEFORE the holidays, so as to save the person from buying a gift for them.

                Not sure how old you are Frank, but you’re better off without someone like that. There really is no better advice then that to give, because it sucks regardless.

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  I’m 28. We’ve been together 4 years and have a son together. Things are way more complicated than I care to get into. She was the love of my life.

                  2010. Is. Going. To. Suck.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  I have no optimism for you. Sucks to be you.


                  Your girlfriend sounds like a dick, though.

                  Who has the son?

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  I know it.

                  She’s got him…in Texas. They’re flying back there tomorrow.

                  The following, I feel, sums up my situation:

                  I don’t love you like I used to, I’m involved with someone else, and the only real way to be with your son is to quit your job, move down to Texas, away from your friends and family, and try to succeed in this dreamy scenario I have now created for you.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Shit, your girlfriend really sounds like an evil motha fucka.

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  Ex girlfriend bro. Ex girlfriend.

                  Daddy’s hitting the bars tomorrow. Alcohol + women + Beck (Sea Change)/Ryan Adams (Love is Hell pt. 1 & 2, and Heartbreaker) = cure for the common breakup.

                • JobaJr says:

                  Can’t you take it to court for custody of your son?

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  You should email her the link to this page. Just for kicks.

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  @ JobaJr

                  Nah, we’re not married. But even if I tried I wouldn’t get custody. The mother always gets custody unless she’s a crack addict or something. She doesn’t ever not let me see him. It just doesn’t happen very often b/c of the distance & money issues.

                  @ RRR

                  I’m totally doing that. She’ll change her ways once she knows all my fellow RAB folk agree that she’s somewhat satan-like.

                • Mike Axisa says:

                  I feel for you Frank, that’s a shitty situation. But remember, Mo never closes a door without opening a window. It’s going to suck for a while, but in the end you’ll be better off.

            • Tank the Frank says:

              No she totally started up with someone else. I know who he is and everything. Thanks Facebook.

              He seems like such a tool…but I won’t say that b/c it will probably make her like him even more.

              • J says:

                As a therapist, I deal with a lot of similar situations like this. If you want to really stick it to her, you could probably prevent her from moving him that far away from you. Also, if it is any consulation, when a person starts a relationship while in another one, the new relationship is doomed to fail. I’m not saying you should take her back when the situation presents itself (and yes, it almost always presents itself), but it’s very difficult for true feelings to be established when it’s a cheating relationship. At that point, the person regrets it.

                If you need to talk, ask Mike or Joe for my email, and I can listen and try to offer you advice.

                • Tank the Frank says:

                  I really appreciate your input. I don’t believe I have any legal avenues to take. He was born in TX.

                  I plan on seeing a therapist. I also plan on moving on – somehow – as soon as possible and try to distance myself as much as possible from her current relationship. It’s tough to imagine us back together when he’s got her all to himself half a country away. He’s a bartender (I can’t believe I’m sweating a bartender – no offense to bartenders) and I think he’s exactly what she’s looking for right now after the stress of being a mother and being in a long distance relationship for so long. Thanks for your offer. Hell, if your office is in CT I might be able to give you some business!

  11. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    To entertain ourselves, let’s post a dumb comment from LoHud:

    “Rob Neyer was asked recently if the Yankees could win with Brett Gardner playing everyday and said he thinks that they can because they won with Gardner and Melky splitting time last year so why not?

    And my argument would be that while Melky was certainly not a star player, Gardner has a long way to go before he’s even at Melky’s level.

    Your argument will never make an impact for people who can’t differentiate between a player who actually knows how to hit and one who does not.

    It’s routinely assumed by some on here that Gardner = Melky + speed.

    That premise: “Gardner will be as good as Melky offensively because he will match his hitting and he’ll also be able to steal bases.”

    Is made by people who apparently can’t tell the difference between the two at the plate.

    There is no real way to explain something that is so fundamentally lacking in the way the game is viewed.

    The quoting of Gardner stats is just ridiculous. The man has no clue.”


    • radnom says:

      There is no denying that Gardner is quite likely an offensive downgrade from Melky. Yes he has shown some promise to match Melky’s production in a small sample size, but future confidence in him depends on whether you attribute his falling off a cliff towards the end of last season to his finger injury or pitchers challenging him (I tend to fall more on the later side).
      Even in the worst scenario, his speed and defense help close the gap between the two and this team is much better with Vasquez and Gardner in LF than it would be if we still had Melky but no Vasquez.

      • 28 next year says:

        yea, I think Vasquez is a big addition and now we have four pitchers who could pitch 200 innings. CC, AJ, AP, JV and so that alones makes our bullpen a hell of a lot better.

        • I have an open mind on Vasquez, and I don’t buy the #4 stuff except as a floor. He was one of the top 3-4 pitchers in the NL last year, and it wasn’t just luck or ballpark. He was pitching differently. Less fastballs and more breaking stuff. Scouts have always said Vasquez has #1 stuff, but somehow always managed to put up #4 numbers. If he finally figured it out at age 32 last year, then we could have a terrific pitcher this year.

          • radnom says:

            If he really did finally put it all together last year, why were the Braves willing to move him to free up some salary?
            If they really valued him as a top 10 pitcher in the league, surely they would have kept him unless they got a higher package.

            I’m high on Vasquez, and consider him the Yankees #3 starter at worst, but I don’t expect him to be a number 1. And thats not a bad thing.

            • Don’t ask me to explain Frank Wren, because I can’t. He got rid of TWO good closers (Soriano/Gonzalez) to sign a 38 year old Billy Wagner coming off TJS. Then he signs Tim Hudson to a THREE year extension, after pitching just 40 innings last year and being hurt a ton as a Brave.

              In any case, CC’s our #1. I’m just saying if Javy is our #2 it won’t surprise me one bit. So many people seem to think he’s no better than a #4, that’s what I’m reacting to. He was great last year.

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                Any stats (like BABIP, for example) back up your claim that he has turned a corner?

              • Zack says:

                29 starts, 192 IP
                35 starts, 218.1 IP
                34 starts, 224.1 IP

                Those are his 3 years priors to TJS, hurts a ton = 1 year not reaching 200 IP

                • Fine, obviously I was referring to the past few years. A 3 year extension for a 33 year old coming off TJS is still crazy to me.

                • Zack says:

                  Alright, but still but the time missed was due to 1 injury, though a major injury.

                  He did pitch well coming back from TJS- even with an inflated BABIP and crazy high HR/FB rate. His velocity was good, good control (which we all say that is the last thing to come back right?), and no set backs- and now he has a whole offseason more rehab/strength/etc.

              • Evilest Empire says:

                I agree, there’s a solid chance that Vazquez outperforms both Burnett and Pettitte.

                There’s an optimistic part of me that thinks Joba could do the same thing.

            • Zack says:

              Well they had to move 1 of their starters:
              Lowe is unmovable
              Hudson was just resigned
              Kawakami is only due 2/13m over the next 2 years
              Jurrjens/Hanson arent getting traded or stupidly moved to the bullpen

              • radnom says:

                Yeah, but if you think you’ve got a top 5 starter in the league, you don’t move him just to clear up ~8/9 million.

                • Zack says:

                  I agree; but one of them had to be moved.
                  It was Lowe or Vazquez, whos taking Lowe and his 45m? So his other moves forced him to move Vazquez.

                  Their rotation is stil very, very good, so that 9m he takes and adds guys does help the team this year

              • J says:

                Well they didn’t have to move a starter if they didn’t invest 27 million in Tim Hudson, who pitched all of 40 innings. A good GM should have said to himself, “Hmmmm… should I let this guy walk, or sign him and try to trade Derek Lowe off a bad year making WAY over market value.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        Even in the worst scenario, his speed and defense help close the gap between the two


      • Angelo says:

        Trade Montero, Romine, Nova, Manbam for Melky! We need him! then this team would be perfect.

    • You say that so definitively, as if you know what Gardner is or isn’t at the MLB level. You don’t, I don’t and nobody else does at this point. But he won’t have to do much to match Melky, who was barely league average at his position. And it’s safe to say he will be the best defensive CF on the team, far better than Melky ever was. So his defensive value can make up for the difference even if he doesn’t match Melky’s bat.

    • JobaJr says:

      Always a pleasure.

    • deadrody says:

      Really ? We are worried about whether Gardner can be Melky + speed ? Gardner’s OPS in 2009 as a rookie was better than Melky put up in either 2007 or 2008. That isn’t much of a standard to live up to, and frankly, one I think Gardner could easily match. Melky never put up even a league average OPS.

      Remember we are talking about a guy that was sent back to AAA in 2008 for crying out loud.

  12. Mike Pop says:

    Islanders are killing it.

  13. Tank the Frank says:

    Go Tech!

  14. Reggie C. says:

    I wonder what’s the chances that Dombrowski is working on a contract extension offer to keep Verlander in Detroit. I havent’ read ANYTHING about a Verlander extension, which is weird considering he’s coming off a season where he was arguably the 2nd best pitcher in the AL.

    Its kind of insane to imagine the contracts both Felix and Verlander could command if both dont sign extensions before the end of the 2011 season.

    I can imagine however felix signing an extension with the Mariners as that organization doesn’t have liquidity/cash flow issues. The Tigers on the other hand might not be able to convince Verlander that it could build a winner around him…

    • Mike Axisa says:

      They might be better off waiting a year after the season he just head. Maybe he’ll have a “down” season in 2010, and it can save them a few million bucks.

      • Angelo says:

        Here is to praying that does not happen. Felix Hernandez coming to the Yankees would be heaven….it wouldnt be cheap though thats for sure…

      • Reggie C. says:

        Verlander is one of those guys you’d give up Hughes + Montero to acquire, right?

        That strategy of saving a few million bucks is only going to work if Verlander actually does have a down year. I think Verlander’s beyond much correction. He’s fully realized. Do you agree with me that Felix is a likelier re-extend than Verlander?

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Sure, and no. I think Felix is more likely to test the market, but that’s just my guess.

        • Rod says:

          Potentially but Leyland seems determined to destroy his arm. If Montero could hang at C for a couple of years and he meets his offensive projections, he could be consistently as or more valuable than Verlander. The only sticking point is whether he matches the hype.

          • Zack says:

            35 starts, 240IP
            10 starts with over 120 pitches, the last 4 starts of the season went 128, 126, 129, and 120.

            It’s probably smart they dont extend him; big workloads affect young pitchers (most recently Hamels), so they should probably wait and see what his 2010 season looks like.

  15. Head Scratcher says:

    I was doing some research on the 2009-10 FA class and I found a guy who was recently non tendered by the Royals. His name is Josh Anderson and he could be at worst be the fourth OF. Last year he posted a line of .240/.276/.304. It may seem bad but it seems it was an off year. He’s a good fielder as he posted a UZR/150 of 11.8. Do the Yanks pursue him or not?

    • Jose says:

      No. Josh Anderson is a 27 year old with a career 84 wRC+. He has an unbelievably small amount of power from his bat. His defensive metrics suffer from small sample sizes; his most fielded position(CF), he only has 574.2 career innings.

      If you think it was just an off year look at 2007. It was a small sample size that he managed to pull off a .358/.413/.403 line. All while having a .393 BABIP. Last year he finally had a chance to get 300 PA in a year and his actual talent was revealed. He will be a guy who will struggle to ever play another inning at the Major League level. The Yankees should avoid him and the risk of him bringing below replacement level value.

    • whozat says:

      Whenever someone wants to ask a question like this, they should ask “is there any reason to think this player is better than Brett Gardner or Jamie Hoffmann”?

      Someone did basically the same as this last night with two Reds prospects, though at least they were 24 and not 27.

  16. For Lack of a More Creative Name... Alex says:

    Meh. His SSS data looked nice for a couple of years in the majors, but his minor league numbers are not impressive, and his overall numbers are not good at all. He is another lefty hitter who has no power (very low ISO’s), he can run, and he hasn’t been all that great of a fielder in center. He is basically a Brett Gardner who hits worse, is not quite as fast, and does not field as well. No Point.

  17. Tom Zig says:

    Nothing quite like drinking some beer and watching Dune on a Saturday night.

  18. Tom Zig says:

    Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain and CC Sabathia could potentially all free agents at the same time. That could be an epic free agent class.

    Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, BJ Upton, and Grady Sizemore could all be free agents the year after.

    • Head Scratcher says:

      If that were to happen it would be a fucking free for those two years. Hundreds of millions of dollars flying around… can’t wait to see it happen.

    • ultimate913 says:

      Sabathia would be smart to stay with the Yanks knowing that he’ll have this much competition on the open market.

      • Januz says:

        This is why Sabathia should stay: He has excellent career numbers: 9 Seasons 136 81 .627 3.62 288 288 0 28 11 0 1889.1 1738 827 760 168 590 22 1590 59 11 36 7834 121 1.232 8.3 0.8 2.8 7.6 2.69 http://www.baseballreference.com If he stays in NY, puts up a couple of 20 win seasons and another title, he could be discussed in terms of Cooperstown.
        As far as free abgency is concerned, there is an interesting ESPN column from 01/29/09 ranking the best free agent signings ever, and interesting enough, the top THREE (Reggie Jackson Goose Gossage, and Pete Rose) were from over THIRTY YEARS AGO. http://www.espn.com. This tells you that to a large extent, free agency is fools gold for teams. In my opinion, the best way to build your team is through trades and the draft: Look at the Alex Rodriguez trade, the Tino Martinez/Jeff Nelson trade, the Paul O’Neill trade, the David Cone trade, and the David Justice trade. All of which happened during the free agent era. Can you sign excellent free agents? Yes you can. Jimmy Key comes to mind, and I think Mark Teixeira stands an excellent chance to be in Cooperstown, if he gets 100 or more four times during the next seven years, he will accomplish the feat of 100 RBI’s 10 times (Six seasons of 100 plus RBI’s already). Those are Hall of Fame stats in most people’s book. But on average, trades are still the way to go.

        • Zack says:

          A few things

          1. An ESPN list isnt the bible when it comes to best signings. Those best FA are based on perception. He signed for 5yr/3m. Sounds cheap right? Well he became the highest paid player; so how is that any different than CC? It’s just 30 years later in a different market.
          2. For links, you have to have it send you to the page showing the information you’re talking about, not just the homepage
          3. Some FA signings are fools gold is because most guys are 28-30 when they hit FA and get big deals, so teams are paying for their decline. Felix Hernandez will be 25/26 when he’s a FA, Mauer will be 27, so they’re different stories.

          4. “In my opinion, the best way to build your team is through trades and the draft”
          -When you continue to trade for pieces that you need then you cant build through the draft, you’ll never have any impact guys coming up.

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