Following up: Yet another potential explanation for the cold stove

As the baseball offseason drags on with the bulk of the free-agent class awaiting a new home, it seems as though there isn’t one sufficient explanation for the lag. Some excuses have expired (teams waiting to see where Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton ended up), and others don’t seem powerful enough to result in scores of unsigned players by themselves. It’s likely a confluence of factors — more teams thinking along the same lines about prices, timing and win curves, a few key teams steering clear of the luxury tax, and there you go.

Dave Cameron introduced a new one: the lack of competitive divisions. He points to the AL East and NL Central as divisions with two teams in jousting range, and those teams are behaving as such. The Yankees traded for Stanton. The Red Sox seem likely to land J.D. Martinez. The Cardinals loaded up with Marcell Ozuna, Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson to make a run at the Cubs, who have added a starter and three relievers.

The Nationals, Dodgers, Indians and Astros have no such natural threats in their division, as no one team is one big move from closing the gap. As a result, those runners-up might be more trusting of the trade deadline as a way to make up for any winter inactivity, rather than trying to force forecasts to shift and closing off better options later.

I can buy this, because the nearest wave of rebuilding teams hasn’t crested. The Phillies showed what’s possible by signing Carlos Santana — and Philadelphia is an underrated market in crazy offseasons — but they need backup. The Twins are dabbling with Yu Darvish, and the Brewers are toying with a Lorenzo Cain reunion, and the Braves’ chance to act as sleeping giant dissolved due to front office scandal.

Behind them are the Padres, Reds and White Sox, and while San Diego has been a persistent factor in Eric Hosmer rumors, nobody has a good explanation why. Behind them are the Marlins, Tigers and a bunch of undecided teams that are swimming upstream. If baseball teams are going to embrace tanking — and as I’ve mentioned before, a strange byproduct of MLB owning Statcast is having employees who champion not signing guys — the players are going to need a steady flow of “arriving” teams to drive demand. If the divide between winners and waiters persists, the MLBPA might have to resort to more drastic measures.

* * *

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]odd Frazier might be a victim of this gap as much as anybody. In previous winters, second-tier free agents would have found a home by now simply by waiting until they became the most attractive options remaining. Alas, Frazier’s turn has yet to arrive, and the New York Post paints a picture of a guy who is getting itchy.

“This is a different free-agent year, you see some crazy stuff going on, man,” Frazier told The Post. “I know how good of a player I am. I’m confident in everything I do. No cockiness about it. I believe in myself, and I have believed in myself ever since I was a young kid. Nothing has changed. Nothing will change.” […]

“It’s going to be a new, revitalized me,” he said. “I want to prove that I’m worth it. I want to be prepared and be the leader I can be on the field. I know whatever team I do fit with, they’re going to get the best Todd Frazier they are ever going to have because I want to play better. I want to get my average up. I have a lot of goals set for myself. Whenever we figure out what team we are going to go with, it’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m going to get these guys going as much as I am going to get myself going.”

As the White Sox know, a team could do worse at third base than Frazier. As the White Sox also know, Frazier’s flaws are a little too present to kick a team’s win total out of the 70s by himself. The Sox stopped short that winter, never making the second big move to sustain the Frazier trade. As a result, they only went from 76 wins to 78 and still resigned themselves to blowing it up afterward, which is the same result had they just settled for signing David Freese.

It makes sense on an individual level for a team to hold off on signing a Frazier type until it has a firm idea of how much it’ll help. On a leaguewide scale, it’s like watching a game of Mortal Kombat between two players who suck at executing combos, yet refuse to simply punch and kick each other until they get better. One side says “wait,” the other side says “hold on,” and everybody ends up muttering “dammit.”

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Patrick Nolan

How much do prices have to drop before it makes sense to start trying to capitalize on some of this?

In the tweet Jim linked, the guy says “don’t plan for a 79-win season”. I feel like the White Sox would be a team where a 79-win season could actually be a good outcome as long as the prospect horde and future financial flexibility are largely intact. If they got close to the 80-win (true-talent) mark this year, they’d have to check fewer boxes to make a push the following offseason or two. I don’t think the Sox should be paying what we typically would consider “market rate” for any of these more significant guys, but damn, it’s not like we’d just have no use for them.


Please no.

No matter the cost, it’s not time for that. The bulk of the reinforcements are too far away and the ones they’ve promoted haven’t shown what they’ll be. Abreu and Avi are 2 years from gone and even if the prices drop on the top flight guys, they’ll still cost draft picks we can’t start handing out.

Patrick Nolan

Well, it’s January 10th. How far have the prices fallen on the top flight guys?

What’s the value of a draft pick in the 40s?

I don’t think we can talk in absolutes here. There’s clearly a price point where you’re getting enough of a discount on a guy that it becomes worthwhile. Whether reaching that price point is realistic is up for debate, but this standstill kind of defies everything we’ve come to expect from the free agency process.


For me, timing makes any discount irrelevant.

With the current state of prospect depth and development, as well as the myriad question marks and contract situations at the ML level, ’18 and ’19 would be wasting 2 prime WAR years of any FA signing.

I’m still in get flippable guys mode.


I think there’s some serious overvaluing of non-top 10 picks in the draft. The value of a pick in the 40s is roughly 2 WAR during team control.

I’m not saying that the Sox should give up their second pick to sign someone. They probably should hold on to theirs. But there were reports that teams like the Giants didn’t want to sign FA for fear of losing their second pick which, for a team in the position that they’re in, is ludicrous.


If Hosmer is at 7/$140 how much has the market dropped?  Money is still plentiful.  The middle class is disappearing all over, and baseball is no different.  Didn’t we have a shit ton of big names that retired since no one signed them when Raines retired?  Cyclical.

Trooper Galactus

I’m starting to wonder if the 7/$140 million figures rumored for Hosmer were just put out there by Boras.  That kind of money is for elite players, and Hosmer just hasn’t really been one most of his career.


I think it makes sense to try and pick up a couple of cheap pitchers on one year deals. Two guys that make sense to me are Travis Wood and Liriano. Two left- handers that can start or pitch out of the bullpen. We’re going to need a starter or two early and if not needed later on in the rotation, could be flipped or moved to the pen.

Patrick Nolan

Sure — I think that’s made sense since the offseason’s beginning.

The question is, has the market shifted enough such that it makes sense to try to bank a long-term piece while the price point is low?

I’m not saying there’s a player similar to this available, but I’m thinking along the lines of when the Cubs signed Jon Lester before it looked like they were ready to compete.

Greg Nix

I follow your logic, but I’m not sure which pieces out there are realistically contributors on the White Sox timeline. Hosmer’s the youngest guy, but obviously comes with question marks. I’d stay similarly far away from Arrieta. Martinez and Darvish are likely to still contribute in 2020, but is eating two years worth the relative savings? Especially since they’ll probably be on the books until 2023?

Moustakas is the one I’m keeping an eye on. The third base market looks really soft, and if he takes a one-year pillow contract I think the Sox should jump on it. He’d be a really attractive piece at the deadline.

Edit: replying to pnoles, not Jim.

Patrick Nolan

RE: gnix

Moustakas, Cain, Arrieta, Cobb



If you could get Moustakas or Cobb for less than $50m, I’d probably think long and hard about it. I’d for sure sign Darvish.

There are a ton of non-QO guys I’d sign. But I’m sure they’re all waiting this out to see if they can do better than the Sox.


One other thing, the 2018 free agent class is light on starting pitching, Pomeranz and Gio are the two biggest names in the class. So signing Darvish (or Arrieta) makes some sense from a “won’t do better near year…” stand point.

(I’m assuming Kershaw stays in LA).

karkovice squad

but is eating two years worth the relative savings? 

It’s probably only eating 1 year with at least a Wild Card in the offing with some more moves in 2019.

I think the target is seeing if some of the better talent will sign 1-3yr deals below the draft pick compensation threshold, maybe with some creative contract structuring. They ought to be able to position themselves to either convert cash now into prospects later or buy discounted wins a couple years out.


Amusingly, after writing that article even Dave Cameron himself has signed with a team before any additional free agents have signed.

Patrick Nolan

Damn, why did it have to be the medical-info-falsifyin’ Padres though.

Un Perro

Did we ever get a satisfactory explanation as to why the Fish and BoSox were given the options to reverse the trade, but we’re stuck with Shields and down Tatis Jr.?


I’m assuming it’s because the injury wasn’t serious or they didn’t misrepresent it to the White Sox or the misrepresentation was extremely minor.


That final analogy is one of the biggest reasons I followed Jim over to this site, larry be damned.


I agree, it’s a huge contribution to the reason I keep reading. Michael Kenny has created some good content as well, so I’m glad to float back to SSS. Jim has a touch though, that he should be very proud of.

Patrick Nolan

Now we’re cookin’


May this move be the Ex-Lax to end the constipation of Hot Stove 2018.

Blow my Gload

just takes another team out of the running for the free agent pitchers and adds another team to the list of tankers, which won’t be good for any free agents

Patrick Nolan

Sweet username


Considering all the hemming and hawing over Sox asks for Q, I’m super interested to find out the names involved. IMO- ‘Stros would be stupid to give up Tucker or Whitley.

Patrick Nolan

Yeah giving up either of those guys for Cole would be insane.


Astros and Passan saying no deal in place.

Didn’t Morosi jump the gun on another trade a few weeks ago and get called out by Rosenthal?

mechanical turk

Totally unrelated non-sequitur guys BUT I managed to score some tickets to the April 17 A’s-Sox game just now.  That’s the one they’re giving them all away to, with free parking, to celebrate their semicentennial anniversary in Oakland.  I don’t know that I can make the game but the tickets are all general admission and they’re overselling (“selling”), so I won’t feel too bad.  Plus I would give them away in that case.

The overselling got me wondering just how many are available.  The maximum seating capacity for the Oakland Coliseum is 63,123, so maybe that.  Imagine if everyone showed up.  63k people in that stadium, many without seats, many spending the money they saved on tickets on beer.  I’m getting images of Disco Demolition Night in my head, and that had a crowd of around 50k.  It could be a wild one.

(I was at the last A’s sellout, and the last for quite some time too, last July 3rd.  A good amount of Sox fans there, but it was a day game with families and the atmosphere was pretty chill.)

The idea of a really big crowd for a ballgame got me thinking about MLB attendance records.  I’ve never been to a game I don’t think that had 50k people attending, so the idea of 25% more than that again is exciting.  And that got me thinking about MLB attendance records.

On the low end, of course the White Sox are there.  Their game in Baltimore against the Orioles on April 29 of 2015 had zero attendance.  But that feels like cheating, since there were people outside the gates wanting to get in.  People actually wanted to go to that game.  (The previous “record” also doesn’t count because all six of those people are long dead.)  But in the modern era, for games people COULD attend but chose to not, Oakland seems like the likely champion.

I know Oakland had some poorly attended games in 1978, which I learned while browsing baseball-reference after reading about madridsox’ origin story, but I was apparently off by a year.  According to this Vice Sports article, the April 17, 1979 game featuring the Seattle Mariners visiting the Oakland Athletics had a crowd of only 250.  Baseball-reference lists attendance for this one at 653, but still, woof.  Single digits.  There’s another game from the same year with 750 listed.  That’s rough.  There were probably fewer than 250 fans outside the gates in Baltimore (conveniently about a week after that Vice article was posted), but to have a game open to fans and have all but 250 go all Bartleby, the Scrivener on you- woof.

But this A’s game will surely be well attended, so no need to drag the poor Jokeland Pathetics through the mud (lucky there’s no perversion of “Sox” which could become negative, eh lads).  63k sounds like a lot, but is it?  Turns out no, it’s nothing, and you should feel bad for thinking that it might be.

In 2011 surely reputable weblog claimed that the Sporting news Baseball Record Book was wrong in crediting a Yankees at Indians game with the regular season record of 84,587 fans at Municipal stadium on September 12, 1954.  Apparently the truth is that a September 9, 1928 game between the visiting Philadelphia Athletics (there they are again!) and the New York Yankees drew 85,265 in paid attendance, with many more turned away.  Wow, 85k! Now that seems like a lot of people.

But nope, turns out you’re wrong AGAIN, reader, and 85k is dogshit because according to the wackypedia article linked well north of this line in this same comment (which just keeps going for some reason), 115,301 people attended a preseason game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 29, 2008.  I don’t remember happening but I was probably busy being excited about the potential of Nick Swisher (former Athletic- there they are AGAIN) to pay attention.  It’s important to note that this game took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum.  Now 115k people at a baseball game, THAT is a lot.

But it’s preseason, you’re saying, it doesn’t count even toward spring training records.  And you’re right, so we’re throwing it out.  And after a little more scrolling action on that why-kippy-dia page, the only logical place to look is of course the 1959 World Series.

The Dodgers were drawing huge crowds at the LA Coliseum for the series.  92,394 for the first night on October 4, a Game 2 victory over the White Sox.  92,650 the second night, another victory over the Sox.  The next night, October 6, saw a 3-1 lead and a chance to clinch the World Series victory with Sandy Koufax on the mound.  92,706 people attended to see Sandy Koufax pitch and get SHUT OUT by the Sox, suck it Koufax the comeback is ON with Bob Shaw pitching 7 1/3 shutout innings!  But we all know how that one ended.

Still, a few things are clear.  If you want big attendance, you want the Athletics involved, you want the White Sox involved, you want colisea involved.  And if you want poor attendance, well, you want the Athletics involved, you want the White Sox involved, and you want colisea involved.  Or you want to play in 1882, but that seems unlikely.

I’m looking forward to this anniversary game in Oakland.  I hope it’s one for the history book, I really do, but if those books have taught us anything it’s that this matchup will have either a million fans in attendance or two.  Either way, pretty exciting stuff.

mechanical turk

Don’t actually read this.




It’s probably soxmachines’ layout but your walls of text look even wall-ier now. Still less daunting to read them than actually being productive though.


The Turk is approaching maximum wallnicity. Soon it will be a single monolith, stretching across the horizon, blocking out all light, all matter, all immigrants, just all.


I was at the Rockies’ first-ever home game along with 80,226 of my closest friends. It was a rollicking good time. Rockies averaged over 55,000 per game that year.

As Cirensica

The arbitration year system is somehow broken.  Teams are discovering (Thanks to new ways to measure performance) they can win with young cheap talent and fewer ‘veterans’. I think it’s a dysfunctional system where owners are starting to pay few dollars for premium years of players, and more dollars for the senior years (And generally less unproductive years).  Form the point of view of economics, this makes no sense.  Of course, I am being overly simplistic with this comment and I haven’t actually run numbers to determine things like WAR per dollar for players under control vs WAR per dollar for the rest. Yet, I feel confident the latter is a lot more expensive than the former which makes no sense. The system should be designed to eliminate this GAP.

Patrick Nolan

One big issue contributing to this has been the tendency for hitters to peak earlier and earlier over the course of the most recent decade.

It used to be that a hitter’s prime was in the 27-31 range — right around when free agency would strike for a player with 6 years of service time. Now, with players peaking in the early-mid 20s, they’re stuck with lower salaries during their theoretically most productive years.

So this structure made more sense when players had later peaks. I feel like eliminating the concept of Reserve years beyond maybe the first one and giving players 5-6 years of arb salaries might be more equitable. Good luck getting owners to go for that, though.


If they save the money on the back end of players careers, they might be open to it?

Patrick Nolan

How might they do that? It seems to me like the revised aging curves are doing that for them already.

karkovice squad

The players agreed to the arb system mostly because owners had leverage with the system that was already in place but also because staggering when players hit free agency benefits the free agents, at least in theory.

The change in peaks is definitely contributing to players getting screwed but this is basically a return to what age curves looked like before widespread steroid use. They’re also getting screwed by teams delaying calling players up, not just playing the game to maximize total length of team control but also making sure that it lines up with squeezing out every bit of surplus value.

Changing the reserve/arb ratio might help. So would revising how arb awards are determined to have them inflate at a rate closer to free agency. So would providing greater incentives to promote players from the minors.

Trooper Galactus

It seems all too coincidental that players regressing to the aging curves of normal human beings has coincided with the steroid testing era.


I really hate the championship-or-tank mentality. It feels like ownership has figured out the ultimate “heads I win, tails you lose” scenario – they can make money while putting a terrible product on the field for years while selling fans on maybe being the next Cubs or Astros. This despite the fact that 87 wins will get the 2nd wild card more often than not. The Sox have made their decision and so now they have to follow through, but it sucks to see a third of MLB following the same path.



lil jimmy

Over on Sickles site, SD fans are giddy about their prospects.

What about the fans who had to sit through losing teams for nine out of ten years ?

With another on tap ?

As stupid as Cubs fans.

Patrick Nolan

Man, fuck this offseason

As Cirensica

Clearly, many GMs need to read The Art of the Deal

lil jimmy

I got a copy. Turns out, it was in Russian

Now we’re coooooooookin’ … with mud.


I don’t know if it’s just me but it seemed obvious given the lack of an abundance of super competitive teams right now. I also don’t see this as a problem. Sure it might suck for those players trying to get more money but teams can win or plan to win later in their own way like the Sox are doing. Maybe I’m wrong but right now the Sox are the last team to worry about a cold stove offseason this season, it’s next year when the magic and happenings should start after all. Let’s just see wherever we land next year while focusing on more development and giving the future the experience they need and not force any issues. Stick to the plan.


It’s terrible for the game though. During a typical season, I tend to watch 80% of all White Sox games, and then maybe parts of 4 other games every week. With fewer teams actually trying to win, what incentive is there to watch the other games? In fact, I can see myself watching fewer Sox games too, since I won’t go above and beyond to make sure I catch a September Sox/Royals matchup with the Sox trying to knock the Royals out of contention.

Not to say the Sox should change their plan, but all of the tanking league-wide is going to make this a much less fun MLB season, at least for me.

Patrick Nolan

Jose Rondon. How about it.

As Cirensica

See? Replacing Jake Peters wasn’t that hard

Patrick Nolan

I dunno. They’re very different players.

Peter adding on all that power (which maybe some of it was playing at Charlotte but there’s been some scouting to back it up) at the end of the season gives me some pause about losing him. Rondon’s stock has been trending downward for a little while now.

On the other hand, the White Sox might prefer to have Rondon’s defensive versatility, as he could more directly replace Saladino. The thing is, as long as Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia are on the roster, it’s not all that critical to have Saladino (or the guy occupying Saladino’s roster space) be able to play shortstop all that often, because I imagine that Tim Anderson is going to play nearly every game there.

mechanical turk

But Jacob Winfield Peter is an anagram for “If bold pace, win Jeter,” indicating that if promoted aggressively Jake Peter(s) will bring the White Sox a gift basket full of championships.  Jose Rondon is an anagram for “Jo drones on,” indicating that he will probably talk your ear off on the bench.  Good or bad he’ll probably play every day after a week of situating himself right next to Renteria on the bench and annoying his way up the ladder.  This is 100% irrefutable scientific fact.

Ted Mulvey

Man, I just burned myself on that scorching stove action!

(Edit: hey, it’s something, at least)


Not sure how I missed this Rondon in my offseason plan of acquiring all the Rondons.

That’s why Rick gets paid the big bucks.


I guess the new website can’t do banner headlines.


Dammit – they already had a flashy-glove-no-bat Rondon and just tossed him aside. No way I’m making room in the basement for this one.


payback for Tatis?



Patrick Nolan

That sure is…..something.

lil jimmy

So…….. take out the camera then ?


Patrick Nolan

This is really good:

Trooper Galactus

Out of curiosity, which free agents remaining would fill the following criteria:

1) No qualifying offer (won’t cost a draft pick to sign)
2) Can be signed for three years or less/fewer/whatever
3) Fills a remaining need for the 2018 squad
4) Has some potential as a trade chit

karkovice squad

Other than Yu Darvish, they’d probably have to give up a draft pick to sign anyone of real value.

Of those without a QO attached:

Eduardo Nunez and Todd Frazier are probably it for 3B.

Carlos Gomez, Jon Jay, Howie Kendrick, and Cameron Maybin for OF.

Darvish and Jaime Garcia are really the only options they wouldn’t have already considered signing for SP.


about the $50 million price point.

I was previously thinking this was the compensation beginning for free agents, but when I looked into it on (some random?) site, they stated that the $50 million only affects which picks the team losing the free agent receives and has nothing to do with the acquiring teams.  In other words, if Sox sign someone with a qualifying offer, they lose their 2nd best pick.  Period.  The contract amount affects which picks the compensated team receives.

Now again, I’m reading here about the White Sox wanting to sign someone for under $50m.  Which is it exactly?

karkovice squad

Yes, the $50m threshold affects the team that lost the player. Any team that signs a player who rejected a QO is going to lose a pick.

But given that Moustakas is probably the best fit of the QO’d free agents, if he’d otherwise sign for below $50m, they’d probably be better off not driving his price up to where he’s both costly and the Royals get a better draft pick.


thanks for clearing that up.  If that’s the case, then I hope they don’t sign anyone with a QO.  That second pick is an early one and should be good talent available in a deep draft.