With pitchers and catchers reporting, here are 5 surprising developments from MLB's offseason - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

With pitchers and catchers reporting, here are 5 surprising developments from MLB’s offseason

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Each offseason – whether it’s the Orioles’ or Major League Baseball’s – is different. There are trends that seem to be fairly unique to each winter. With this one technically coming to a close as pitchers and catchers report to spring training today in Sarasota, Fla., here are five things that surprised me about the way baseball’s winter took shape.

1.      Power isn’t king

Do chicks dig multiple-inning relievers and pitch-framing catchers these days? Apparently, because they don’t appear to dig the longball sluggers anymore. Or at least general managers don’t.

The big money this offseason was primarily doled out to late-inning relievers such as Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen and not for big power guys such as Mark Trumbo and Chris Carter. Even Edwin Encarnacion failed to get top dollar, settling for a three-year, $60 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. Why?

ADVERTISEMENT

Well, there seemed to be a glut of power hitters on the free-agent market this year. And with a surge in homers in 2016, power may not be as rare of a commodity as we thought it was a few years ago. If you can hit homers and play the field, the money is still there. But one-dimensional sluggers – Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Howard, for instance – are still shopping for jobs.

2.      Matt Wieters remains unemployed

I wrote more about this over the weekend, but the bottom line is the market seemingly collapsed on Wieters, who is still one of the better all-around catchers in the game. Maybe his asking price initially was too high. Or maybe his poor catch-framing metrics hurt him.

But it is mind-boggling to me that Wieters is still on the open market and Jason Castro, who has good pitch-framing numbers but isn’t the overall player Wieters is, landed with the Minnesota Twins for three-years and $24.5 million.

3.      The QO killed value even more this year

We all knew the qualifying offer attachment for free agents would be a detriment. We didn’t know it would be an interminable prison sentence. Ten players received qualifying offers this offseason, meaning those 10 could accept or reject a one-year, $17.2 million deal from their respective teams.

Only two – Jeremy Hellickson of the Philadelphia Phillies and Neil Walker of the New York Mets – accepted the offers. The other eight became free agents eligible to sign with anyone. However, any team signing one of those QO free agents would have to give up a first-round pick.

The system changes next year – the pick surrendered in 2018 and beyond will be, for most teams, their third-highest – so this is the last time a team would lose a top pick. And teams took that change very seriously.

Only three of the remaining eight QO players switched teams; the other five found their markets limited enough that they returned to their 2016 clubs. That’s pretty astounding considering the quality of those players compared to the rest of the market.

4.      Rich get richer, poor ignore

There always seems to be a mediocre club that loses its mind and spends huge money in the offseason to try and become competitive. That didn’t happen this year.

The biggest free-agent salaries were basically doled out by clubs that were already perceived as contenders. Teams like the Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants bought high-dollar guys. The Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, for example, didn’t try to jump from pretender to contender as they have in the recent past.

5.      Prospects are the real kings

Baseball has always had also-rans trading off established players for prospects. But it’s almost an epidemic now. The Chicago Cubs’ quick ascent into competitiveness based on stockpiling prospects through drafts and trades further re-established this phenomenon last year and the big money New York Yankees showed anyone could do it in July.

And now it almost seems like teams would rather have young, cheap prospects than established stars. The Chicago White Sox drilled that point home this winter when they dealt away two excellent players with reasonable contracts in Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for a bevy of unproven players. Those deals still make me wonder what the Orioles could have gotten for Zach Britton this offseason. But enough about that, did I mention pitchers and catchers report Monday?

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. ubetonit

    February 13, 2017 at 7:15 am

    “1. Power isn’t king”

    When a team leads MLB in HRs by a lot yet is 12th in runs scored BY A LOT, even trailing 5 NL teams who didn’t have the benefit of the DH, do you need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing?

    • Dan Connolly

      February 13, 2017 at 8:26 am

      Good point. It’s funny, we all wrote about the lack of home runs for several years. And then, bam, last year it skyrocketed. But it’s not as if that return of power greatly affected the ultimate outcomes.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 13, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Dan, when do pitchers and catchers report?

    • Dan Connolly

      February 13, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Today for the Orioles. First workout Tuesday.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

        Sorry Dan, that question was my attempt at levity. I DID read your article … I promise.

  3. loganmillermusic12

    February 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I’m still baffled about Wieters. How does someone as talented as him not have a team… the day that pitchers & catchers report. I didn’t want him back this season just because I would rather have the money he’d want to be allocated to Manny or Schoop in the future, but now that the market has tanked, i’m beginning to want him back… at the right price. He’s one of those guys whose leadership and humor would be missed more than anything in the clubhouse.

    • marcshank

      February 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm

      I also bring him back because he’s not going to hit .247 again, he might hit .275 or .280. Like he did before his arm went south.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 14, 2017 at 11:59 am

      It’s all economics. Getting the right dean and fit. And I doubt the Orioles are that. But ya never say never.

  4. Raveonjo

    February 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    The thing about the Yankees trading away established stars for prospects is the Yankees get the stars back in free agency. That’s why I can’t understand how any fan can root for the Yankees. The rules are stacked in their favor. Yankee fans are the type who would get a kick out of beating a 10 year old in arm wrestling.

  5. marcshank

    February 13, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Yes, Dan, maybe a genuine starter like Chris Sale. If we throw in Schoop. I do it. I’ve got Sale, Gausman, Tillman, Bundy and maybe Ubaldo. I might be the best team in baseball.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Schoop alone doesn’t get it done. There’d have to be 2 more prospects — real ones — to match Boston. Os didn’t have that.

  6. Delsym

    February 14, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Matt Weiter’s problem is his agent and pitch framing. I really think he is invaluable to us from a morale standpoint and fear a fallout of Mussina (Moose) proportions…and that’s from a Mainer! I still remember, and shudder to think what could happen if our pitching tanks…perhaps our hitting may fall off as well, he really never was as productive as we’d all hoped, but he was a steady and dedicated employee, not too much different than Cal in some respects, but we just kicked him to the curb to see if someone would take him…sadly I expect he mostly has his choice of agent to thank for it…borASS. I seriously wouldn’t draft a player who was his…

    • Dan Connolly

      February 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Boras gets clients because he routinely negotiates the best deals for his people. And he gets top quality players. This one, however, doesn’t look good.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login or Register Here

Leave a Reply

To Top