Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
There are stars, bargains, and talent that's in-between still remaining on baseball's free agent market, even though it sometimes seems the pilot light has gone out on the Hot Stove season.
But does waiting too long to sign with a team negatively impact the kind of season a player figures to have? Neil Walker thinks so and has "the worst month-and-a-half of my entire career last year" to offer as evidence.
Walker signed with the Yankees on March 12 and had a lousy start to a subpar season, with his lack of a proper spring training at least partly to blame, the veteran says.
He did not want to endure the same thing this year, so he inked a one-year, $2 million deal with the Marlins Wednesday, nearly three weeks before Miami's first full-squad workout Feb. 18.
Last year, Walker batted .165 in April. He surged in May with a .294 average and .890 OPS, but sputtered again in June, going only 2-for-32 (.063) with no extra-base hits. He finished the season with career worsts in average (.219), on-base (.309), slugging (.354) and OPS (.664).
"I know as a player it was very frustrating last year to go through what I went through," Walker told reporters covering the Marlins. "I know that sitting around on March 10 and not being able to get the quality amount of work that comes along with spring training was really detrimental to the first month and a half of my season."
Walker wasn't the only late-signee who struggled last year. But signing late doesn't mean a player is doomed to career lows, either, as the 2018 season perhaps proves.
For some players, it might just depend on their career arc. Who's on the rise? Whose best days are behind them? Who's bouncing back?
With all that in mind, here's a look at some of the notable players who signed in February or March last year. It might offer some perspective for teams thinking of adding a piece now, or those clubs trying to talk themselves out of signing someone.
Padres 1B Eric Hosmer: One of the biggest names on the market last year, Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144-million deal on Feb. 19, but had his second-worst average (.253) and third-worst OPS (.720).
Twins RHP Lance Lynn: Lynn signed on March 12 and then went 10-10 with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP for the Twins and Yankees.
Twins 1B Logan Morrison: Minnesota's bid to add late talent fizzled here, too, when Morrison signed Feb. 28, and batted .186 with 15 homers and 80 strikeouts in 318 at-bats.
Orioles RHP Alex Cobb: Cobb inked a four-year, $57-million deal on March 21, but went 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in 28 starts.
Cardinals RHP Greg Holland: Holland signed on March 31, was released on Aug. 1, and signed six days later by Washington. Overall, he recorded a 4.66 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 56 games.
A's C Jonathon Lucroy: The catcher signed on March 12, and then produced the worst OPS of his career, .617.
Mets LHP Jason Vargas: He signed late (Feb. 18) and suffered a broken right hand in camp, so it was a wonky season that ended 7-9 with a 5.77 ERA. The ERA was the worst of his career in a season in which he made at least 20 starts, but he improved in the second half, pitching to a 3.81 ERA.
Mets 3B Todd Frazier: Frazier signed on Feb. 7, and then endured a frustrating season. He was on the disabled list twice - the first two trips of his career - and had a career-low .693 OPS.
Cubs RHP Yu Darvish: Chicago had high hopes after Darvish inked a six-year, $126-million deal on Feb. 13. But he was injured most of the season, going 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in just eight starts.
Phillies RHP Jake Arrieta: The former Cy Young Award winner got a three-year, $75-million deal on March 12, and then went 10-11 with a 3.96 ERA in 172.2 innings.
Red Sox OF/DH J.D. Martinez: His five-year, $110-million deal wasn't set until Feb. 26, but he's the player who destroys the idea that signing late sets players up for a difficult season. JDM finished fourth in MVP voting in the American League, led the AL with 130 RBI, was second with 43 homers and third with a 1.031 OPS.
Twins RHP Anibal Sanchez: Minnesota signed him Feb. 20, and then determined he wouldn't make their team, releasing him March 11. Five days later, he signed with Atlanta and revived his career with a 2.83 ERA in 25 games (24 starts). He signed a two-year deal worth $19 million with Washington earlier this winter.
Blue Jays RHP Seunghwan OH: The reliever joined Toronto on Feb. 26, and was so good he was a trade chip for the Jays, who shipped him to Colorado. Overall, Oh had a 2.63 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 73 outings.
A's RHP Trevor Cahill: Signed for just $1.5 million on March 19, he provided serious value, going 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) and got a one-year, $9 million deal from the Angels this winter.
This winter, there's still plenty of talent available: Thirteen of the top 50 free agents, as ranked by the website MLB Trade Rumors, are still unsigned. That includes four of the top five - Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that 98 free agents remain available overall, though some figure to retire.
So will Harper be impacted if he waits to sign during spring training? What about Machado? And what late-signer will emerge as a key cog in a playoff team? We'll just have to wait.