The slow free-agent market...
When talking to people at large player agencies, I'm left thinking maybe they're right -- maybe something is afoot in the business of baseball. The thing is, after talking to smaller agencies, I go back to believing this is a small correction created mostly by the temporary absence of the Dodgers and Yankees spending on big free agents.
The reality is that the market will probably balance out some place in the middle.
From what I can tell, the new guard of team executives have seen how long-term contracts to players older than 30 have negatively hurt a team's ability to create roster flexibility.
At the same time, statistics and evidence are allowing the GM to prove his case to ownership, which historically had been more likely to be romanced by player agents. Without emotional owners involved, agents are left losing arguments to data. It's not collusion. It's evidence, information, and history that is slowing the market.
The small agencies get it, probably because they are typically run by younger people with younger clients, most of whom are still zero-to-three guys or players still on one-year deals and eligible for arbitration. The big agents live for the long-term deal because, if a client inks a seven-year contract, it means the agent gets paid for seven years. So, it's understandable that they've be angry about the shift that's occurring this winter.
Instead of threatening a potential work stoppage, or accusing executives of collusion, smaller agents tell me their time is best spent educating clients about how front offices are making decisions and valuing talent.
Frankly, I bet this entire conversation will be a distant memory next winter.
In 12 months, the Yankees and Dodgers will have spent a season under the luxury tax and will return to spending and instead of cutting payroll (as they did this winter).
Meanwhile, also next offseason, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew McCutchen, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel, among others, will hit free agency.
For what it's worth, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins will also be free agents after this coming season. It's also worth noting that Clayton Kershaw, 30, can become a free agent because he can opt out of the two years and $65 million remaining on his current contract
David Wright's future and roster spot...
The Mets will be able to place David Wright on the 60-day disabled list as soon as Feb. 14, according to NY Post reporter Ken Davidoff. This is important because it will mean they can add any recent acquisition to the 40-man roster without needing to cut someone.
Wright is due to earn $20 million this coming season, $15 million in 2019, and $12 million in 2020.
My hunch is we're not going to see as much of David as we did last spring, when he hit and fielded in public, but did his throwing in private. I expect he'll slowly get back in to the swing of things and let the team again feel out his ability away from cameras and fans.
"It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can't be relied on to go out there and do what I've done throughout my career," Wright told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "That is a tough thing to say."
It's also tough to hear.
I want him to find the Fountain of Youth, but I don't expect it to happen. Instead, my fear for him is that he'll again find it too difficult to play this spring. If that happens, the team, the insurance company, MLB, the MLBPA, and Wright's agent will need to start talking in real terms about retirement and how to settle his salary.
"I think he's got a long road back, a tough road back, but he's so determined to put that uniform on again," former Mets manager Terry Collins told WFAN in October. "If anyone can pull through this it would be him."
Wright wants another shot at playing baseball so he can go out on his own terms, or at least go out knowing he did everything possible to try and achieve his goals and meet his obligation to the Mets and their fans. However, from what I know of David, he knows he also has a responsibility to be a healthy, active, and available husband and father for his family. And if continuing to be in therapy, in surgery, and pushing on field makes living a healthy life off field less possible, he'll do what's best for his wife and daughter.
It's possible that moment of truth arrives for Wright later this spring. It's also possible it comes during the summer, next winter or not until next year. In either case, when it comes, and if Wright believes he has done everything possible to play and he's gone as far as he can in his career -- even if he has time and money left on his contract -- I truly believe he'll retire and return home to his family.
I'll feel sad for him that day, but also relieved...
Pitchers and Minor-League Deals...
Whether the Mets sign a bonafide No. 3 pitcher to a guaranteed contract or not, I expect they'll still end up picking up one or two starting pitchers that are willing to accept a minor-league deal.
For what it's worth, this is how the Mets stumbled upon R.A. Dickey in 2009, which occurred on the same day the Yankees acquired Javier Vazquez and his $11 million salary in a trade with the Braves.
Naturally, fans and reporters mocked Omar Minaya and praised Brian Cashman. However, in exchange for roughly $8 million in total salary, Dickey went on to make 91 starts in three seasons for the Mets, during which he won a Cy Young award, and went 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA. Vazquez, on the other hand, pitched just one season for the Yankees, earned his full salary, went 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA, and left as a free agent the following winter.
Dickey left the Mets in a trade to to the Toronto Blue Jays, who sent top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud to Alderson's Mets...
The point is, while it's easy to dismiss or laugh off minor-league deals because they're typically not exciting and rarely pan out, when they do pan out, it's usually a terrific return... just ask Dickey, Minaya, and Alderson.
Previously notable starting pitchers that could end up taking a minor-league deal this winter include Clay Buchholz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Trevor Cahill, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Vólquez.
I like the idea of reconnecting Jimenez with Mickey Callaway. However, Cahill could have more upside. At 28 years old, he looked outstanding during his first 10 starts last season. He then fell apart trying to pitch through pain. His season eventually derailed due to injury. If the Mets have any reason to think he's healthy, Cahill could be a nice fit given that he'll be just 29 years old.
By the way, it's easy to suggest signing all of the above or simply taking a flier on a guy, but -- since there's not a whole lot of variation in minor-league deals -- the pitcher is more likely to be selective and go where he has the best shot to make an Opening Day roster. So, while I might prefer Cahill or Jimenez, and you may prefer someone else, that player isn't taking your deal if he doesn't see a path to the big leagues.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...