After sitting out the high dollar free agent market the past few years, fans are foaming at the mouth imagining the Mets once again being big players for the marquee names. We’re going to trade for Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp, sign Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo, and if he’ll go on a short deal, we’ll stoop to get Tim Lincecum, too. Woops, scratch that last one – Lincecum just signed for 2/$35.
Raise your hand if you imagined a guy with a combined 2.5 fWAR over the past two seasons getting such a deal. And he got that *before* hitting the open market. There’s a decent chance Lincecum could have gotten more money if some other team got involved in a bidding war with San Francisco. With Barry Zito’s contract finally up, perhaps the Giants felt obligated to have someone take his place with an obscene contract.
Or maybe this is what players are going to cost on the open market this year.
It’s old news now that every team in MLB has more money to spend this year – around $25 million per team – thanks to the new television contracts. A few owners will pocket that money but many more will use that to invest in their teams. And there’s no more visible way to do that than with a splashy free agent signing.
But free agency will not be the only place where we see an impact. What two years ago seemed like a slight overpay will now be considered a normal deal. And anyone signed to a good contract now will seem like a super bargain. Tulowitzki has posted a 5.5 fWAR or above in four of the last five seasons and just turned 29. His $16 million price tag for 2014 seems like an incredible deal, even if it comes along with six more seasons and a minimum of $118 million owed. How much will he cost in a trade?
Let’s get back to pitching. If Lincecum is worthy of 2/$35, what does that make Arroyo’s price tag? Lincecum is younger but Arroyo has been better recently and the length of Lincecum’s deal mitigates the age difference to a big degree. The past two seasons, Arroyo posted 3.2 fWAR.
One could argue that the Giants are paying a premium hoping that Lincecum bounces back closer to his Cy Young Award form and that Arroyo simply does not have that possibility in him. Fair enough yet how much extra would you be willing to pay for what a guy did five years ago? The Giants are seemingly valuing him at the 3.6 fWAR he put up in 2011. Given that he did not put up that total combined the past two seasons, they’re either betting on a huge bounce-back or a completely different valuation model.
We cannot make any judgments based on one deal. But for those who hoped the Mets would be big players in free agency, this cannot be a good sign. Actually, it might be a very good thing for the Mets. Maybe, instead of spending $25 million for Arroyo, they’ll give a shot to a pitcher already in their farm system. So, instead of sinking a lot of cash into SP as an overreaction to the Matt Harvey injury, they’ll put money where it really needs to go – the offense.