MLB offseason full of stopping short and never starting

(Ian D'Andrea / Flickr)

Bless Yonder Alonso, who is willing to come up to Miami to weather both the actual weather and a torrent of questions about his brother-in-law, all in the name of SoxFest.

Besides the perpetual dangling of two of baseball’s biggest stars, a couple other stories floated up to serve as lesser symbols of the strange, slow and troublesome offseason.

First, an Athletic story about Yasmani Grandal’s formal Milwaukee introduction included a nugget pertinent to White Sox fans:

Grandal received multi-year offers from four teams: Mets, White Sox, Twins and Angels, sources tell The Athletic Wisconsin. But in a free-agent process Grandal deemed challenging, he opted for the one-year arrangement. […]

“I had a lot of good deals,” Grandal said. “One of my responsibilities as a player is also to respect the guys going through this process before me like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, to mention a few of them.

The only known offer — something like four years and $60 million from the Mets — qualifies as more guaranteed money than the $18.25 million he’ll earn from his one-year deal with the Brewers. Yet that proposed deal from New York falls short of the $17.9 million qualifying offer in terms of average annual value. That’s not only a bit of a hit on Grandal, who turned down the offer from the Dodgers, but that also wouldn’t be great for the players as a whole. The qualifying offer is determined by averaging the top 125 salaries in baseball, and I’m guessing the “respect” Grandal mentioned involves doing what he can to raise that bar with his status, not lower it. While short, his contract with the Brewers does a little bit more toward that end.

Regarding the White Sox, it’s hard to imagine they made a “good” offer if Grandal only accepted one guaranteed year, but it works out in their favor regardless. They’ll have a much clearer idea of their long-term catching forecast after the season and Grandal can’t receive another qualifying offer. Then again, that arrangement works out for just about every team that could use a Grandal type next year. The problem is that a lot teams aren’t so eager to act on these opportunities.

Instead, look at what Tigers GM Al Avila said on Wednesday:

“Is 2021 the time to, OK, start spending some money?” Avila said. “I don’t know. I do know that we will have some money by 2021 to start going out there. I’ve talked to Chris Ilitch and I know that whether it be 2021, 2022, at that point, we will be at a place from a payroll perspective where I want to be at, where I’m comfortable where financially I know we’re in a good place. No different than, let’s say, the White Sox are right now, the Phillies. There are certain teams right now that financially they’ve got the flexibility to do whatever they want. They’ve got some prospects in place that have already played a year or two, San Diego’s going through the same thing.”

That’s where the Tigers are — hoping that in two years, they can be like the 2019 White Sox, whom they just finished ahead of in the AL Central.

Meanwhile, the one team that’s actually equipped to keep the Cleveland Indians honest — and one that’s free of the most onerous contract on their books — hasn’t been inspired to finish the job.

These are strange days, because baseball is a zero-sum game, but teams aren’t acting in zero-sum way. When so many teams are sitting it out, you’d expect other teams to pounce. A good chunk of these teams are instead content to cite “responsibility” and “sustainable success.”

The problem? The amount of teams chasing “sustainable success” is greater than the number of teams that are actually going to be allowed to enjoy it, especially when you factor in the teams already good at sustaining said success. Whether free agent to free agent or team to team, the math throws an error on the calculator, and it’s going to be tough to identify an easy way to resolve it.

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polishwith

Man, what the hell are the Twins waiting for?

zerobs

They got Schoop, Cron, and Cruz. Probably waiting on Keuchel to decide.

Lurker Laura

The situation with the Twins is an embarrassment.

roke1960

As Sox fans, we’re all pretty frustrated with how things have gone. But how would you like to be a Twins fan? They finally get the Joe Mauer contract off the books, and the best they can do is 1 year of Nelson Cruz? I’d be furious is I was a Twins fan.

GreatjonHumber

On the other hand imagine being the the Tigers and having gotten 5.4 wins from the first 3 years (the good years!) of an 8 year, $250MM contract extension.

roke1960

The Sox are really poised to dominate this division in the years ahead. Two teams are years away from competing, one has maxed out, and has started losing players, and the last seems content with making oodles of money. Adding Machado or Harper this year and another big ticket item next winter, plus all the prospects and we should be able to finally make the playoffs in back to back years very soon.

karkovice squad

Realistically, the Sox get bites at the apple in 2020 and 2021. Hopefully, a work stoppage doesn’t arrive as early as 2021.

I’m not as sanguine about their likelihood to dominate after that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cleveland can reload rather than rebuild during that time. And being able/willing to spend $200m makes the Tigers a threat as soon as they’re ready to do it.

roke1960

The thing about Cleveland is they won’t be able to afford many of their guys when they reach free agency. At least one of Lindor or Ramirez will be gone, and Kluber will likely be gone. They just don’t have the payroll flexibilty to pay their guys. I am a little worried about Detroit, but their farm system is rather devoid of good position players.

yinkadoubledare

I question whether Detroit will be flinging the money around the way they did when Mike Ilitch was trying to win a title before he passed away.

melidoperez

I agree about Detroit, but honestly have no idea on Cleveland. Every team being run by an efficiency expert might change the calculus on some of these clubs. The days of teams like the Indians facing the inevitability of throwing their hands up when a star hits free agency and the Yankees, BoSox, and everyone else waiting with bags of money are over. Realistically who can’t Cleveland afford? They could pay Lindor/Perez big money, and don’t really have anyone else they need to do that with. Carrasco is now locked up as well.

35Shields

I’m sorry, but I lost the ability to feel empathy towards Twins fans somewhere back in the mid 2000s.

roke1960

I lived in Minnesota for 25 years. The Twins fans are so phony. They deserve this.

35Shields

Using the word “lived” liberally, I see

roke1960

Survived would probably have been a better word.

zerobs

I would think McCann and Martin not being able to put up 2 WAR after age 32 are the reasons Grandal wasn’t getting more than 3 guaranteed years in his offers. Time will tell, but he probably isn’t going to get more than two guaranteed years next off season.

35Shields

Of the five seasons that the two players you mentioned have had since their age 32 seasons, they’ve put up more than 2 WARP in three of them

Rex Fermier

He’ll get 2 years IF and only IF he can stay healthy! And, in 2 years time there will be several new, young and less expensive catchers arriving in the big leagues. Grandal is taking a big risk, in my opinion.

knoxfire30

Not a billionaire and dont know what drives these guys, but the lack of ego involved in tanking away year after year to gain profit is baffling to me. Easy to say when you arent signing the checks but if Im racking in 220 mil im spending 220 mil on player acquisitions, only thing I would want to be buried with are my world series rings.

MrStealYoBase

Jerry bought the team for $19M in 1981. It’s now worth $1.5B. That’s a return of over 12% per year. Easily one of the best investments one could make and he could lose money on player salaries for the next decade and still be up on the deal.

Why on earth he cares about contracts that will expire when he’s likely dead is beyond me. Say what you will about the situation Detroit finds themselves in now but they had some teams that were the best in baseball on paper because their owner cared about winning before he died.

Rex Fermier

I’ll take a stab at why on earth Jerry cares about big contracts when you expect him to expire before the contracts. Owning a ball club is exactly like owning a business. You want it to be profitable. If, heaven forbid, Jerry passes away, and his heirs decide to sell his share of the business. He would want them to get the most money. You can’t do that when you have a loosing team with no future, loaded with expensive, non productive contracts.
This is just the first option I could think of. Perhaps some MBA could come up with additional reasons for Jerry to care.

Rex Fermier

Year after year to gain profit? Tanking teams are NOT making money. At least not the big money that winning teams can earn. Some of these tanking teams are stuck with big contracts on players that are not helping to win games. The White Sox have been able to get rid of onerous contracts (eg: Shields) which provides financial flexibility to offer big multiyear contracts to new players.

fustercluck

“… more guaranteed money than the $18.25 million [Grandal will] earn from his one-year deal with the Brewers.”

Is that how the $2.25MM mutual option for 2020 is applied for calculating future QO value? Or will it be based on the $16MM for 2019, lowering the average salary?