It’s February 6, and I’m still leading posts with something about the slow offseason. Major outlets are talking about it on a daily basis. Free agents still aren’t signing.
Well, one did, and now maybe we’re starting to see why others haven’t.
On Monday, the New York Mets inked former White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year deal worth $17 million. That’s not $17 million per year. That’s $17 million over two years. As in $8 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019.
Now, obviously, Frazier’s value on the open market is not indicative of all players collectively. It’s particularly difficult out there for a player who’s not at a position of high demand. You look at the contenders and bubble teams around the league, and most of them are set at third, mostly with young players.
Angels: Zack Cozart (a shortstop who had to take a 3B job)
Astros: Alex Bregman
Athletics: Matt Chapman
Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson
Brewers: Travis Shaw
Cardinals: Jedd Gyorko
Cubs: Kris Bryant
Diamondbacks: Jake Lamb
Dodgers: Justin Turner
Giants: Evan Longoria
Indians: Jose Ramirez
Mariners: Kyle Seager
Nationals: Anthony Rendon
Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Twins: Miguel Sano
Yankees: Miguel Andjuar/Gleyber Torres
While there are a few veterans on this list making the big bucks, most of these players are young, cost-controlled, and very talented. Maybe you could have made a case for Frazier going to the Orioles (Tim Beckham) or Rays (Matt Duffy), but you could also make the case that they shouldn’t be spending money on that kind of upgrade.
So really, as a third baseman, Frazier didn’t have much of a market to begin with. But maybe this is somewhat representative of the problems free agents are facing at large. If you remove a bunch of non-contending teams for whom Frazier wouldn’t move the needle, you’re left with these teams, who have no need for even a talented player at the position.
And so Frazier, who’s been worth something in the neighborhood of 3-4 wins every single year he’s been in the league, has to settle for a surprisingly low commitment. He made $12 million to avoid arbitration last year, and if you use TangoTiger’s 40/60/80 rule, he probably should have been able to get a $15 million AAV under more favorable circumstances. A year ago, it would’ve been inconceivable that he’d take a 33 percent pay cut.
Even when the offseason began, MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year, $33 million contract (to the Mets, no less), while Dave Cameron and the FanGraphs crowdsource guessed $42 million over three. Six relievers have already gotten more than $17 million this offseason, and it seems like theirs is the only market that’s moving. Maybe Frazier decided to take what he could get, happy enough to stay in New York and close to his hometown of Toms River, New Jersey and get into Spring Training.
In case I haven’t said it enough, Spring Training is now just one week away, and while the top-tier players like Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez are sitting on big offers waiting for bigger ones, it’s possible that a lot of the next ones down are receiving the kind of low-ball offers Frazier did. If the floodgates open soon, it could wind up looking like Black Friday.