Did Blake Snell and Co. overplay hand in free agency – or is drought MLB’s new normal?

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Did Blake Snell and Co. overplay hand in free agency – or is drought MLB’s new normal?:-When it comes to staring contests, it is generally not a good idea to compete against Scott Boras.

Whether it is through his weirdly lovable dad jokes to kick off the general managers’ and winter meetings or his ability to wait out a seemingly disciplined owner or general manager who will finally bow to his demands, the super-agent in baseball seldom gives up control over the industry’s transactional season.

Did Blake Snell and Co. overplay hand in free agency – or is drought MLB’s new normal?

However, here we are, only three weeks away from Opening Day, with the clocks ready to spring forward, and two of his most outstanding clients, left-handed pitchers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, have not yet signed contracts.

After Cody Bellinger (three years, $80 million, Cubs) and Matt Chapman (three years, $54 million, Giants) eventually signed with clubs that had been expected to land them for a long time – for a far lower price than was anticipated – two additional players earned below-market guarantees that were laced with opt-outs. These pacts amounted to prove-it bargains.

What really took place with the Boras Four?

Considering that the actual season is right on the corner and the stove is almost completely turned off, here is a look at the factors that have combined to freeze out a big portion of the free agent market for the particular game:

Imperfect gems

Boas has been very good at the long game, even though each free agent season has its own unique and sometimes unpredictable pace.

Max Scherzer (Jan. 21, 2015), Prince Fielder (Jan. 24, 2012), and Bryce Harper (Feb. 28, 2019) are the most well-known players who signed deals worth between $210 million and $330 million after the New Year’s fireworks stopped.

Bellinger, like Harper, had an MVP award on his shelf when he went on the market. Snell has two Cy Young Awards, one from each league and one that Scherzer had at the time.

What’s with the “bargain bin” treatment?

That question might not be fully answered until the 2024 season is over. On Monday, Boras said that four new teams had shown interest in his pitchers who were not signed yet.

The Boras Four, on the other hand, all have small to moderate flaws that stopped them from announcing their price.

When he became a free agent, Snell was the NL Cy Young winner and had the best ERA (2.25), adjusted ERA (182), and fewest hits per nine innings (5.8) in the big leagues. In 180 frames, he struck out 234 hitters.

Did Blake Snell and Co. overplay hand in free agency – or is drought MLB's new normal?

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However, teams might be hesitant to give Snell a nine-figure deal, since the price seemed to have gone up after Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s record-setting $325 million deal with the Dodgers.

Snell also had the most walks in the major leagues with 99. His walk rate of 5.0 was the lowest it had been since his rookie year (2016). It was clear that Snell could punch out of self-made hot spots, but if his K rate drops and his walk rate stays the same, those jams will become problems in the future.

Also, he hasn’t had the steady progress that teams want to see after making a big investment. Snell won the Cy Young Award in both 2018 and 23. His ERA was 1.89 and 2.25, his innings thrown were 180 and 180, and his hits per nine were 5.6 and 5.8. It’s safe to say that was his best season, and he still only pitched an average of six innings per start.

During the four full seasons that came after? He had a WHIP between 1.20 and 1.32 and two seasons with an ERA of 4 or more.

It is well known that Bellinger has had health problems. He had surgery on his shoulder after the 2020 season and broke his tibia in 2021. When you hit, it takes one minute to rebuild your upper and lower halves.

It looked like Bellinger did that in 2023, when he hit 26 home runs, had a.307/.356/.525 line, and had 4.4 WAR. Still, injuries kept Bellinger from playing more than 130 games, and the way he hit the ball did not match the image of a 28-year-old slugger in his prime physical condition.

When Chapman arrived at Giants camp, his pitchers were thrilled because they knew that the left side of the infield would be dominated by a two-time Platinum Glove winner whose defense, like Bellinger’s, contributed 4.4 WAR in 2023.

But Chapman’s hitting dropped off a lot in his last year in Toronto. He hit a career-low 17 home runs and had an adjusted OPS of 108, which is just above league average. He had an.327 OBP in two years with the Blue Jays.

Montgomery’s story might be the most interesting. He was never an All-Star and never hit 200 games or struck out 200 times, but what a great way to end his career. After being traded to Texas in the middle of the season, he had a 1.09 WHIP and pitched well in the playoffs. The Rangers won both of his Game 1 starts and Game 7 of the ALCS, going on to win their first World Series.

The player gets a good start and comes up just short of an ace. How much is that worth? The answer is still unknown.

Passive aggression

The Boras Four would make good, expensive consolation prizes for sweepstakes losers since the Shohei Ohtani and Yamomoto pursuits are attracting followers and the biggest markets.

However, too many teams quit. They may regret.

The Blue Jays were ideal for Bellinger and Chapman. They chose great defense and an easy-to-swallow $10.5 million commitment over the promise that Bellinger would return to his 2019 47-homer form.

More intriguing is the Chapman pivot. Toronto will have a diverse lineup at third, second, and DH, including Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Justin Turner, and possibly Eduardo Escobar..

Having seen Chapman’s hitting struggles in 2022, the Blue Jays may have felt the exceptional defense wasn’t worth it. They may have trouble keeping All-Stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. after 2025 due to previous multi-year commitments.

The Giants’ patience paid off in signing Chapman, but they damaged Bellinger’s market by signing Boras client Jung Hoo Lee to a $113 million contract. Much-needed rotation additions won’t come unless Snell or Montgomery sign short-term contracts like Chapman.

Recent Boston Red Sox hesitancy about free agency has hurt the player market. Their odds of finishing last in the AL East for the third time in five years would improve if they signed Montgomery.

They also seem eager to wait and sign Montgomery at a low price, even if it means losing him.

Starting pitchers Corbin Burnes, Max Fried, Walker Buehler, and Shane Bieber will join the market next winter. That harvest shrank Monday when Phillies starter Zack Wheeler signed a three-year, $124 million contract, a per-year record.

Arms cost money eventually.

Future shock

In 2017-18, market hesitancy left dozens of useful veterans seeking jobs well into February, prompting the MLB Players’ Association to host a spring camp for unsigned players.

Nor is there as much saber rattling as the MLB-union collective bargaining agreement nears midterm. However, some are wary.

During a podcast interview after joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, utilityman Kiké Hernandez alluded to collaboration among the Boras Four and the nomadic player.MLBPA executive director Tony Clark labeled numerous stars’ unsigned position “interesting,” which shows his verbosity..

The current and future cable TV/streaming problem has likely influenced some clubs’ expenditures. Labor again draws a line between real issues and excuses, which management is reluctant to reveal.

The Boras Four are disappointed the line won’t disappear soon. Opt-out clauses in their deals are meant to restore value and allow free agency.

Which means repeating this next year.

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