Baseball’s weird winter drags into 2018

We’re firmly into the new year, and Major League Baseball’s offseason is showing no signs of the opposite of letting up. This is a problem for some in the editorial business…

… because this is all that can be written.

Eight of the top-10 free agents on MLB Trade Rumors’ list have yet to sign. On top of that, there’s precious little activity around any of them. What’s even more, the documented little activity is getting stranger.

Case in points:

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Eric Hosmer

Good news: There are actual documented offers regarding the winter’s most divisive free agent.

Bad news: Even those have weird snags.

Bob Nightengale delivered the most substantial rumor yet for any of the aforementioned eight free agents:

The Kansas City Royals have offered Hosmer a franchise-record seven-year, $147 million contract, persons close to Hosmer told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity since negotiations are still undergoing.

Hosmer also has a seven-year, $140 million offer from the Padres, people close to Hosmer say, which is $1 million less a year than the Royals’ deal.

Those figures hung in the air for a while, but they haven’t generated momentum. Instead, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune said he heard the Padres’ offer was lower than $140 million. On the Royals’ side, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger shot down the $147 million figure, calling it “almost certainly pushed by people close to Hosmer in attempt to kickstart action in a historically slow baseball offseason.”

Lin did say the Padres were willing to go seven years on Hosmer, so Nightengale’s report isn’t entirely unsubstantiated. If that’s the case, the $140 million figure seems awfully convenient, as if to say, “We’d rather not sign for less than Carlos Santana’s average annual salary.”

Hosmer’s situation is weird, but then again, Scott Boras’ hyperbolic representation may not be a great fit for somebody who has alternated good years with mediocre ones. A $200 million deal was floated by numerous writers before the offseason began. That was ridiculous on its face, and if Hosmer’s side feels like it has to save face, one could say he’s the one dragging out proceedings a little more.

What’s weirder is what’s happening with…

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Jake Arrieta

Boras represents Arrieta, too. For that matter, he also represents Mike Moustakas, so I wonder how much of the slow offseason can be traced back to him. It brings to mind the White Sox generating lackluster activity for Jose Quintana last winter, perhaps because they already jolted the market twice with two other great contracts.

Whatever the case, Arrieta’s market has been similarly sluggish, so much so that the Cubs are back in the hunt, according to Bruce Levine.

Looking ahead, the Cubs have a renewed interest in bringing back Arrieta, sources said. Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, had a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 30 starts in 2017. The two clubs showing the most interest in Arrieta are the Cubs and Cardinals, according to one industry source.

Matt Spiegel said that Levine added that both the Cubs and Cardinals have held the line at offering four years. It’s now Jan. 4, and the best or second-best pitcher on the open market still hasn’t made one of two direct division rivals cave in for a fifth year.

That seems implausible, and if there’s an artificial constraint on the market, it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from. Perhaps Boras is trying to use the specter of the Cardinals to push the Cubs into a fifth year, because the Cubs are hunting for a top-flight starter more than other teams, and maybe his slow-play tactics pose a big problem for an entire free agent class when he represents so much of the top tier. He’s why basketball has a shot clock.

On the other side, owners can’t be collectively trusted either, because they’ve been collectively illegal on at least one occasion.

But hey, the White Sox were never going to be proactively involved in the market, so at least this hasn’t affected any of my editorial plans. The Internet may take much from many, but it doesn’t exactly demand Ji-man Choi or Fernando Abad rumors.

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Ted Mulvey

Is it just me, or did everybody have to go into the ‘Archives’ section to view this post? (I should note it showed up in my RSS just fine)


I have to laugh at the media blaming the Yankees and Dodgers for this market. Are you serious bros? I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the fact that a third or more of the league has quit on the season before it started. Silliness. I hate seeing baseball go this way.


I agree completely.  The compete for a championship or tank model is hurting the game badly in my view.  I don’t have much of a solution for it though.  Perhaps change the draft order so that it is not automatically in reverse order of the record the prior year would be a start.  But that wouldn’t solve the gut your team for prospects trades that rebuilding teams usually follow.

Josh Nelson

MLB is a very copycat league. Once some team has success doing it one way, most everyone else follows suit. Will need a franchise to go against the grain and win a World Series by doing so to change the current setting.



Like in 2005, if it even happened

Patrick Nolan

What’s weird is that we’ve gotten to this point in the two-wild card era. Parity should theoretically be at an all time high when you could sneak into the playoffs with a mid-80’s win total.

Then again, I guess that’s the sort of hopeful thinking that got the White Sox where they are today….

As Cirensica

I believe the wild card era and the expansions screwed up the way teams compete. Before, an owner needed really good players to compete. now? maybe with a bunch of cast off here, some rookies there, you can sneak in and win 90 games, and go on with a wild card berch

Trooper Galactus

To be fair, if the two-wild card era was around in 2010, the White Sox would have made the playoffs as the second one and we could have remembered Mark Kotsay as a World Series hero.

Patrick Nolan

Yuck, what a horrid thought!


Totally agree with you here gibby. The all-or-nothing compete or tank model is bad from the sport, and is theoretically only a step or two away from just formally scheduling championships or competitive windows. I don’t care for it at all. Sure, some teams will bottom out and down a hard rebuild, but the sport is more entertaining and stronger when fewer teams intentionally punt whole seasons.

The good news is the league is all about patterns and cycles, and this one will hopefully pass soon. Like Josh said, it is a copycat league, and the current fad is the tank-competitive window strategy. Hopefully it will soon be replaced by more teams in sustained competitive mode.

Trooper Galactus

If teams are trying to emulate the Cubs’ model, I’ll be curious to see what happens when they reach the step where they sign multiple players to $150-200 million contracts.  Heck, until Renisdorf finally opens up the checkbook like almost all of his peers have been for years now, I remain skeptical even the White Sox will really do it.

karkovice squad

Cubs aren’t the only tank-to-win model. Royals and Astros skipped the 9-figure contract stage.

Trooper Galactus

Well, the Royals rebuild also lasted about two decades, so don’t think anybody’s planning on emulating them.  As for the Astros, they did take on Verlander’s money and their overall payroll topped $150 million, which is the kind of territory we were dreaming of the White Sox entering before the teardown began.  They’ll certainly have to dole out some serious cash soon if they intend to hold on to Altuve.

karkovice squad

Verlander isn’t even comparable. The remaining time and money on his contract was less than half of what the Cubs gave either Lester or Heyward. And the Astros’ Opening Day payroll was only $125m.

They also won a World Series which tends to fix a ledger for about 5 years. Unless you’re the Royals.

Reindeer Games

Maybe they haven’t signed Hosmer yet because no one wants to pay him because he isn’t that good.

Eagle Bones

There are reports of multiple 7 year offers (though it sounds like they may have been leaked by Hosmer’s side).

Reindeer Games

Right I didn’t say he was bad, just not as good as him/Boras think he is, so he hasn’t gotten a large enough offer yet.


right you are treetrunks

Trooper Galactus

When I heard Boras talking 10 years and $200 million for Hosmer, I knew some team was gonna overpay for him.  Hosmer is barely worth signing for half that.


What this offseason needs is a Pirates franchise that could spend money (Moustakas isn’t my guy, but he’d answer a big question for Pittsburgh), a Toronto team that wasn’t largely dependent on good health from Tulo and Travis, as well as 2018 Justin Smoak looking like 2017 Justin Smoak, instead of literally any other iteration of Justin Smoak, a Diamondbacks team that didn’t look like it was surprised by its success in 2017, and a Marlins franchise whose ownership group wasn’t plausibly from the devil.


I am surprised by the lack of rumors around Darvish. I am not sure who I would prefer to sign out of him or Arrieta were I running a contending team.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I’m not crazy about either of them.  I would hate to be a team looking for pitching this off-season.


With the emergence of analytics and wide spread use of the tools it may be that driving prices up is difficult because everyone has a similar of view of what contracts should look like.  Note I’m not defending owners – eat the rich preferably with a nice cream sauce.


the soft cap has been a lot harder than the MLBPA expected.


Agreed, on contracts and eating the rich, and I also think that the number of huge, untenable contracts that wind up paying aging and creaky guys many, many American dollars for multiple years is haunting the process. I suspect contracts longer than 4 – 5 years are going to be increasingly rare going forward.


The contracts longer than 4/5 may be reserved for elite or young players from here on out


As someone on Twitter said, what with the recent fad of rich people drinking “raw” water, eating them is no longer safe.

Parasites, you see.


Prudent. Point taken.

karkovice squad

That, along with teams saving their powder for the premium talent available in the next couple free agent classes. And unless this trend continues through those seasons, I’d argue analytics has less of an impact than the talent that’s going to be available.

Josh Nelson

SoxFest Lineup update


Lurker Laura

“[Boras] is why basketball has a shot clock.” Heh, good one.

Technical question here: I like that I can now see which comments are unread, but how do I mark them as “read” so that the blue boxes go away?

Lurker Laura

Now that I posted, all of the other boxes aren’t blue anymore. Would they have changed if I hadn’t posted? My apologies for the dumb questions; I feel like my mother with her email.

Ted Mulvey

The blue will go away once the page refreshes.

Eagle Bones

Yes, noticed this function as well!  Thanks for adding this Jim!  Makes keeping up with a discussion over multiple visits MUCH easier.



Eagle Bones

One thing I just noticed though, if you leave a comment and the page recycles, the comments are all shown as read (i.e. if you read the first comment and responded, you now can’t tell what is new further down the page).  A minor bug, but something to note.  Thanks Jim!

mechanical turk

There are allegedly keyboard shortcuts that aid with comment reading and such, but I haven’t gotten them to work yet.  Here’s some more information:

Based on the stuff about approving comments and whatnot, maybe they aren’t meant for us plebeians.  I haven’t mastered this commenting system yet.  But if it turns out we can do fancy stuff you KNOW I’m gonna manually change the background of everything I post to be that sweet sweet green we all know and love.


Is there any agent in MLB history comparable to Boras, as far as commanding an entire offseason’s pace?

Also, has he had work done? He looks great/weird for 65


All his beauty secrets are in the Lisa Frank


I think he looks like crap, binder or not.


I’m only surprised that Darvish and Arrieta haven’t signed. I guess Martinez, but only because it is so obviously that the Red Sox want him. But with the way things are trending, and considering the age and talent level of the other big names, I’m not surprised these guys are still out there.

lil jimmy

My question. We all agree the Ws will (should) sign a starting pitcher. When is that going to happen and who will it be ? seems over due.


I thought people expected the market to be slow this winter due to teams not wanting to overspend into to the luxury tax so they have as much free money as possible for the insane class of free agents that might be available next offseason. Combine that with teams becoming less likely to hand out a large contract to guys on the wrong side of 30 and you can see why its slower. Even if it makes for a more boring time to baseball fans.


Question.  Is WHIP of any use?  I always thought it was just a fantasy baseball stat.  Surprised to see someone quoting it.

As Cirensica

It is still a fantasy baseball stat, and may be used to complement a point that is already backed with other better stats.


The suspense is killing me!



Patrick Nolan


Cerpin Taxt

Who, who, and who?


Joakim Soria is in the deal


Holy crap and Soria?


Jake Peter for Luis Avilan, Joakim Soria, and cash


I was just about to go home too.  Happenings!

Brett R. Bobysud

Seems like a solid deal for both sides.

Eagle Bones

I like this.  Basically beefing up the pen a bit and wagering they can spin these guys for better prospects at some point.  I was never big on Peter, so that seems like a decent bet.

karkovice squad

Avilan’s a lefty. So he’s got that going for him.

Cerpin Taxt


time to test out this here soxmachine with some hot stove action