Free agency opens with a thinner reliever market

Free agency opened on Thursday accompanied by a pair of reported signings.

One doesn’t yet have a dollar value attached, as reports have Clayton Kershaw returning to the Dodgers on a one-year deal. Another could help the White Sox, as Robert Suarez re-signed with the Padres after declining his player option.

Suarez impressed in his first MLB season, posting a 2.27 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 47⅔ innings, but he reached free agency because he made his debut at 31 after spending all of his professional career in Japan.

Not only is he off the board, but he signed the offseason’s second five-year contract for a reliever. Suarez’s deal is worth $46 million, with an opt-out after the third year. It’s not quite Edwin Diaz’s five-year, $102 million deal with the Mets, but five years remains a staggering commitment for any reliever.

With Diaz and Suarez returning to their teams, there isn’t a whole lot left on the market for a team seeking proven relievers.

I think we can say that Liam Hendriks’ two-year, $29 million obligation is below market rate, and you might even be able to rope in Kendall Graveman, who has succeeded in his limited exposure to the closer role over the last two years.

(Joe Kelly? The Sox are probably stuck with Joe Kelly.)


As for two other elements that help determine the shape of the free agent class, here were the players who opted out, declined their options or were bought out:

  • Chris Archer
  • Hanser Alberto
  • Chris Bassitt
  • Xander Bogaerts
  • Dylan Bundy
  • Kole Calhoun
  • Andrew Chafin
  • Carlos Correa
  • Zach Davies
  • Jacob deGrom
  • Danny Duffy
  • Zach Eflin
  • Mychal Givens
  • Josh Harrison
  • Ian Kennedy
  • Jordan Lyles
  • Trey Mancini
  • Nick Martinez
  • Mike Minor
  • Wil Myers
  • Jimmy Nelson
  • Scott Oberg
  • Tommy Pham
  • Jurickson Profar
  • Anthony Rizzo
  • AJ Pollock
  • Carlos Rodón
  • Miguel Sanó
  • Jean Segura
  • Will Smith
  • Drew Smyly
  • Justin Turner
  • Justin Verlander
  • Taijuan Walker

Some of those players were among the 14 who received the $19.65 million qualifying offer from their clubs:

  • Tyler Anderson
  • Chris Bassitt
  • Xander Bogaerts
  • Willson Contreras
  • Jacob deGrom
  • Nathan Eovaldi
  • Aaron Judge
  • Brandon Nimmo
  • Joc Pederson
  • Martin Pérez
  • Anthony Rizzo
  • Carlos Rodón
  • Dansby Swanon
  • Trea Turner

There are a few surprises in there, but Pederson tops them all. He posted a 144 OPS+ and hit 23 homers over 433 plate appearances for the Giants, which is no small feat when Oracle Park is the home ballpark. However, he’s also a strict platoon bat and a poor corner outfielder, so it’s a lot of money for a 31-year-old who needs assistance holding down a position.

Pederson would be off the market if he accepts, obviously, but it’d alter the conversation about his value if he declined the offer, since a draft pick and international pool money would be attached.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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striker

My guess is Perez, Eovaldi, Pederson and Anderson all take it. I don’t think any of them beat that annual amount and the loss of a draft pick will suppress their demand.

Wayne

Agree with that.

Lakc of RP market means Hendriks, Graveman, and Kelly could be tradable. Hendriks has the most “surplus value”.

soxfan

If they’re going for it, the move would be to trade Hendriks and use that and the Abreu money to sign Verlander to a short term high AAV deal. Basically give him the deal the astros gave him so he gets one more year of certainty. Second year might be a total waste but IF they’re going for it that shouldn’t matter.

Narrator voice: they are not going for it.

Willardmarshall

Do players ever think, a contract this long increases the chances it ends ugly? Probably not….

LeftistLefty-Righty

I don’t imagine they care

Right Size Wrong Shape

Nor should they.

To Err is Herrmann

I am afraid you might be unwittingly challenging Rick Hahn with his headline. I think he will read it and say, “Hold my beer.”

BenwithVen

It just feels like they’re basically going to run it back. With Jerry’s inflexibility and the FO’s total lack of creativity, i’d be surprised if the offseason wasn’t a complete dud like last year.

Trooper Galactus

Well, between Hahn’s crappy spending extending into 2023, he has nobody to blame but himself for a lack of flexibility. It’s his fault the same damn weaknesses are on the roster and it’s his fault they’re spending about $12 million to bring back Kelly and Diekman for an encore nobody wants. Maybe if he’d assembled a team with actual depth and done something to actually solve problems year after year he’d have a larger budget to work with instead of having the rug pulled out from under him.

asinwreck

My first thought upon reading the Suarez deal was “maybe this will discourage Jerry Reinsdorf so much that he decides to sell.” (As if the outside world at all affects his decisions.)

peanutsNcrackerjack

So maybe going the trade route is the better option as the Sox are pretty terrible at the free agency thing. Besides Hendricks, Giolito is being rumored as a trade option and should likely get better return than what it will take to replace/improve his 2022 production. Then we empty the farm keeping only Colas and maybe Norge Vera for Bryan Reynolds, switch hitting OF with 27 HR last year. Reynolds/Robert/Colas works for me. Gio and/or Hendricks should return a high quality 2B and pitching propsect.

Hahn is arguably better at the “free agency thing” than he is at the “trade route” thing.

As Cirensica

I am not surprised about Pederson QO. A player with his bat skill against RHP are becoming very valuable these days. He ranked 10th in the majors in Slugging %. In 2022, he destroyed RHP and yet, he had a 112 wRC+ against LHP so he is not completely lost there. If only Gavin Sheets was as half as good.

Trooper Galactus

Who pays $19 million a season for a platoon bat, though? He couldn’t even get that on a two-year deal.

upnorthsox

His career earnings are $25 mil so he’s nearly doubling that.

As Cirensica

Mookie Betts career
293/368/520 wRC+ 144

Joc Pederson in 2022 vs RHP
278/356/521 wRC+ 144

Yup…Joc is gonna get paid

Sure, he is a platoon player, but the good kind that destroys RHP or roughly 75% of the pitchers out there.

Trooper Galactus

Being Mookie Betts 75% of the time as a shitty defensive corner OF/DH has its uses, but $19 million worth of uses? That seems like a stretch.

a-t

Joc is really dreadful defensively these days in the corners, it’s Eloysian. Mookie meanwhile has been the best defensive RF in baseball for a while

Trooper Galactus

Yeah, there’s a vast gulf between a Joc Pederson and a guy like Betts based on defense alone, but toss in that one only performs like the other at the plate in a strict platoon and it makes me wonder how that’s somehow worth nearly 2/3 of Betts’s money in a single season (based on Mookie’s AAV). Like, you also need to consider the sort of player he needs to be paired with to make that profile work across 162 games.

Buehrlesque

James Click parting ways with the Astros. Boy, in some alternate universe, there is a scenario in which Reinsdorf, KW and Hahn are replaced with Theo Epstein, David Sterns and James Click.

itaita

Kinda weird how that played out though. Here’s hoping Jim Crane has entered his own Reinsdorf phase and ruins that team.

BenwithVen

It’s probably the same universe where Hawk was never GM.

upnorthsox

Houston’s GM wins 1 WS, 2 AL pennants, and is in 3 ALCS games in 3 years with a 70+ yr old manager and gets fired. Ours is a failure and a joke and blames it all on his 70+ yr old manager and gets a lifetime appointment.

steelydan52

It’s easy to see that the owner is the problem in Houston. He likes cheating and maybe others in the organization do not.
And no, I will never get over what they’ve done to baseball.

dongutteridge

If Rick Hahn trades any significant White Sox player you can be sure that he’ll only create one hole while trying to fill another. He’ll invariably fail at both.

As I see it, the team has no left fielder. No right fielder. No second baseman. No catcher. And no 5th starter.

With Contreras available and Catchers being a less expensive free agent option, it sure seems like the Sox would be better served to trade their paucity of prospect talent for positions at which they “can’t afford” the top free agents…

Have a feeling the 93-win 2021, and not the 81-win 2022 will go down as the aberration of the rebuild “window of contention.” 2020, for me, doesn’t even count for much as that team could’ve finished under .500 if it was a 162 game season and they had to play the whole league…(see also 21-3 vs the Royals, Tigers and Pirates and 15-24 vs other competition , including playoff series vs A’s; the starting pitching was broken down by game 60, hence the bullpen fiasco in games 3.)

Shortened 2020 may have really screwed up the rebuild as it gave the FO a false sense of the team’s status/trajectory. As I tried to lay out in my OPP, this team needs a couple bonafide all-stars to add to a decent but not very impressive core. If Eloy, Robert, Moncada and TA are our 4 best everyday players, I think this team will never get above the race for the 5-6th best team in the AL. If they add a couple of stars—making the core the 3-6th best everyday players, maybe they could be a factor in the AL.

dongutteridge

You’re right. But, as usual, the Sox have almost no surplus area that they can afford to trade from.

And now, apparently, they have no money to spend either.

So, we know how this ends up. Rick Hahn desperately trying to shake things up through trade? No thank you.

I’d rather hope that Pedro and his staff are magicians and can teach things like defense, base running, holding runners on base, taking walks, etc.

asinwreck

If the Sox are banking on internal improvements, one of the hires who might help with that project just went public.

Trooper Galactus

I have no idea who this is.

jhomeslice

Astros re-signed Montero as well. They were 25 games ahead of the Sox, incredibly. The Sox may be further away from a title now than they were a few years before the rebuild started. Their chances remain zero until Grandal is no longer their biggest FA contract.

Time to move on.