Free agent market starting to thin as spring training commences

 John Sleezer/AP

John Sleezer/AP

The historically slow MLB offseason has come to an end and it’s finally time for Spring Training as most teams begin their first official full squad workouts and first games this week. Aside from big time trades involving pretty much any relevant player on the Miami Marlins, the free agent market has been picking up as of late as top free agents have been signing deals with teams, leaving just a few players left on the market.

 Mark Gonzalez/Chicago Tribune

Mark Gonzalez/Chicago Tribune

Heading into this offseason, the biggest free agents were Jake Arrieta, Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Yu Darvish. Just last week, the latter three were plucked off the market as they signed major money deals. Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, Eric Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million with the San Diego Padres, and J.D. Martinez signed a five-year, $110 Million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Darvish is arguably the most talented pitcher that was on the market this past offseason. The same can be said for Hosmer and Martinez as the most talented position players. So with the three most coveted players off the market, what does that mean for all the other free agents still out there?

The one player that I mentioned that has not been signed yet is Jake Arrieta, the best pitcher still available. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that there has been “dialogue” between Arrieta’s camp and the Philadelphia Phillies. Andy McPhail, who is the Phillies president of baseball operations, served in the same role with the Baltimore Orioles from 2007 to 2011. It’s worth noting that Arrieta was a member of the Orioles organization from 2007 to 2013 and was with the big league club from 2010 to 2013 so there is a sense of familiarity between the two parties. The Phillies have a young core consisting of Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola, a great farm system and they have already made a splash at 1B by signing former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana to a three-year $60 million contract. Other than Aaron Nola, the Phillies rotation is a bit iffy so signing Arrieta would make the Phillies a sneaky wild card contender in 2018.

Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jeremy Hellickson are all serviceable starting pitchers still available on the market and are all great middle to back-end of the rotation guys. Greg Holland is probably the best relief pitcher available right now with other guys such as Trevor Rosenthal, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard available too.

All of the top tier position players have been snatched up already but there are still some good second tier guys available.

Jonathan Lucroy is still available and pretty much any team in the N.L. East can use a catcher. 1B Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda are still available and can be good DH options as both still have some pop in their bats. 2B Neil Walker is still available as well as 3B Mike Moustakas. Both are good middle of the order infielders and both are lengthy vets as well. Outfielders Jose Bautista, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez are good power hitting outfielders still on the market.

With the pickings becoming slimmer by the day, there are still quality MLB-level players looking for homes as we enter Spring Training. My guess as to why this free agency was slow? Nobody wants to spend money before next season’s offseason which is going to be bananas. Players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Brian Dozier, David Price, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Pollack will all be hitting the market next offseason. Let’s just rejoice that the slow offseason has come to an end and actual baseball will be played in just a matter of days.