The Stove May Be Cold, But It Ain’t Broken

Not sure why some are feeling like the root causes of this year’s delayed “Hot Stove” are shrouded in mystery. Let’s keep this quick and simple and break down the market in a few logic-driven statements:

1. All Markets Eventually Correct

It was only a matter of time before execs would come to their senses. C’mon. 5 years, 70 million for Ian Kenenedy? James Shields at 4 years, 75 million? It only looks like owners and/or front offices are colluding to keep free agent contracts depressed, because the prices have gotten so nonsensically indefensible in recent years. Teams have finally all come to their senses. It was probably overdue.

2. It’s a Hard Cap

So remember the new collective bargaining agreement agreed to at last year’s Winter Meetings? Yeah, not sure how we all missed it, but it gave MLB teams effectively a hard salary cap for the first time ever. Even budgets like the Dodgers and Yankees aren’t going to just lay down and accept a 50 percent payroll tax. Just ain’t happening. Hard cap = less spending. Done.
free agent cost
3. It’s All in the Data

Player valuation by front offices has unarguably become more uniform. That’s the whole point of the Saber revolution, to use data to lend a degree of objectivity to the subjective. And with all front offices now bought in to the data, no agent, not even Boras, has a landscape of convincing to work with. Boras can’t walk into a room and “sell” a guy anymore. His client’s exit velocity and his launch angle and his DRS are mostly all that matters to each and every front office. No front office wants to be caught paying 5 WAR money to a 2-3 WAR guy. Every team is out there dangling the same 2-3 WAR money to the 2-3 WAR guy.

The free agents that remain unsigned (cough, JDM, cough) are the ones in denial, thinking maybe a team will get desperate. I don’t see it happening. The market has corrected, and those teams with money left under the cap already know, with more objective certainty than in times past, what dollar amount a given free agent is worth. I can go try and convince McDonald’s to pay me a six figure salary to flip burgers. But they already know my flip rate, my drop rate, my extra long lunch break rate, etc. They know what I’m worth. It’s time for remaining free agents to just take what’s out there.

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