Saturday, March 2, 2024

Prolonging the Inevitable


The theme of this MLB offseason was clearly money. How to spend it, when to spend it, how to flex how much of it you have. The most intriguing developments of the offseason involved either the Dodgers spending hundreds of millions on Ohtani and Yamamoto and deferring contract payment, or the Orioles being bought by someone willing to spend money and secure players, or the Brewers signing Jackson Chourio to an extension before he even plays a game in Milwaukee. A year after the biggest development of the offseason was...well, the owners refusing to move an inch on concessions to the players' union, it's definitely a change of pace that some of the most talented players in the game are getting their money's worth, and then some [at the expense of the quality of uniforms, perhaps, but still..]

And yet here we are, less than a month before the season is to begin, and three of the biggest free agents on the table still haven't signed. Coincidentally, they're all represented by the same agent, the ever-slick and ever-infuriating Scott Boras, who has spent the offseason pumping Blake Snell, Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger and J.D. Martinez up to believe they deserve hundreds of millions and long term deals, all while the teams they are negotiating with aren't at all willing to fork over that kind of money for these kinds of players. The stalemates are even more infuriating when you consider that one of these players, Snell, just won a Cy Young and is considered one of the most valuable pitchers in the game, and another, Bellinger, is coming off an excellent comeback season and deserves a higher payday. 

Like the strike, there can be criticisms of both sides. You know, 'how dare the owners be conservative and not want to win', of course people will say something like that. But Boras is, at the end of the day, a salesman, and there's this belief that his years of overselling and overpoaching has infuriated the owners, and they've all become more stubborn, and more deliberate, in dealing with him specifically. Some of this has nothing to do with the players; as we found out last night, the Giants were going to sign Matt Chapman regardless of how long it'd take. It was just the price that Boras and Chapman were asking for wasn't at all what the Giants were planning on, especially considering that they'd just taken on Jung Ho Lee AND Jorge Soler. The same thing happened with Cody Bellinger; everybody knew that Bellinger would re-sign with the Cubs, and the fact that it took three extra months for the two parties to agree on a dollar amount is kind of sad. Yes, they got a deal together, even if it was less than Bellinger arguably deserves, but now Bellinger is in camp and catching up to be ready by Opening Day.

And that's the main problem I have with Boras' holdouts. Yes, you can condition all you want in your own training facilities and do whatever conditioning and individual prep you want but there is a direct correlation between arriving late to Spring Training and underwhelming regular season statistics. I think of the two holdouts of the 2019 season- Josh Donaldson eventually caved and signed with Atlanta, and his numbers, while fine, were the beginning of a career downturn for the former MVP. Craig Kimbrel waited until the season had already begun to sign with Chicago, and by that point he was looking at a truncated season anyway, the quality of which was, understandably, shaky. Even last year Carlos Correa was a later addition to the Twins' roster, and while he had some cool moments, you could tell he was still a bit thrown off for a lot of the year. 

That is what worries me about all four of these guys. Their offseason limbo has spread to spring training, and the clock is ticking on how much actual prep time they're gonna get before somebody hands them the ball. Blake Snell clearly wants to pitch in the Bronx, and there's clearly space for him in the rotation, but he's gonna have to accept a smaller, shorter deal if he wants to cut to the chase and sign where everyone is expecting him to sign [I suppose he could sign with the Angels as well but I have no idea why he'd want to do that]. J.D. Martinez is either gonna sign with the Mets or the Tigers I think, and I don't think he's willing to accept that it's wiser to go with a 2 year, inexpensive deal, seeing as he's turning 37 this year and exiting his prime period. I assume there's at least one more week of stubbornness that all parties will allow Boras before this becomes a problem, though the recent signings of Bellinger and Chapman do point to something happening very soon with both players.

There's always going to be something inherently wrong with the structure of baseball. Scott Boras is thankfully a 'something wrong' that can be helped, I think. It's just gonna take players realizing that he's not the answer. 

As for Yamamoto and Ohtani in LA? I really hope both of them pan out the way the Dodgers want them to. I look at last season, and how there was an entire pitching rotation that cratered because none of them stayed healthy, and I worry it could happen again, especially considering that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a Japanese pitcher acclimating to US hitters. I know it's easy to root against the Dodgers, but I kinda want this to work solely because a team with Ohtani, Freeman and Betts would be cool if it won everything. Not sure if it will, but it'd be cool.

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