When the post season comes to an end and free agency begins, everyone’s focus shifts towards offseason transactions. Fans expect the hot stove to simmer in November, then turn hot in December.
Luckily that has been the case this offseason, as each top free agent in their respective position has been signed. Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Yasmani Grandal were not only some of the best players on this market, but some of the best overall players in the league regarding their jobs on the diamond. With each of their signings a new standard has been set for future star players to make their benchmark and surpass.
Compared to the two previous offseasons, this one has been a relief. Not only are players being taken off the board quicker, but more teams are attempting to compete. A clear connection between the competitiveness of front offices and player salary has been observed once again that might have been missing recently. Yes, Mike Trout did sign the biggest contract in baseball history in terms of total money, but the rest of baseball wasn’t treated anywhere close to the best player on the planet.
Mike Trout was in a position to break contract records no matter what team would have had to ability to sign him, and brought forth the highest annual average of any outfielder just over 35.5 million per year. With much of the noise during last offseason being about Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, what we learned was youth can negotiate big deals in terms of length of contract but not necessarily annual value.
Even when organizations are being more careful with how they spend their money, it’s important to have the top players still breaking boundaries on annual value as well. Yasmani Grandal bet on himself last year when he turned down a reported longer offer from the Mets that didn’t pay him as well annually, taking a reset deal with the Brewers. That gamble allowed Grandal to create a new standard for catchers, getting four years and $73 million from the White Sox.
Players before Trout, Grandal, Rendon and Cole have all been important in what the free agent market is like today. Cole even addressed the changes brought forth by Marvin Miller and Curt Floor during his Yankees press conference that helped modern free agency come to life. The players have their own interests at stake in these negotiations, but they also assisted the next generation that follows them earn lucrative contracts when it’s their turn to play.
Team revenue has continued to rise in baseball while player value has dropped. The qualifying offer dropped for the first time, and teams like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are dropping out of the free agent market because front offices believe their payroll constricts them, but we shouldn’t let what front offices believe convince us into believing players deserve less.
Seeing the top players in the league become incredibly rich might not be of interest to many people, but its important to evaluate because these figures effect middle and lower- tier players as well. We never know when more teams will decide to become competitive on the free agent market, or turn to a rebuild and justify cutting their own spending. But what we do know is during this offseason Cole, Rendon and Grandal have set benchmarks that will help players receive what they deserve as organizations continue to see profits.