MLB Offseason Winners and Losers
Scott Boras clients probably take the crown as the biggest winners among any of this offseason. While the economy was causing price tags to take a nose dive, Boras clients like Manny Ramirez, Oliver Perez, Derek Lowe and Mark Teixeira all signed some of the biggest deals in an economic climate that is scaring may teams from spending money.
The team that signed Teixeira come in at a close second-place. The New York Yankees managed to sign three of the top five free agents in Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. In doing all that, the Yankees took on over $400 million in payroll over the entire lengths of the contracts.
However, in losing the contracts of Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Ivan Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu and with Andy Pettite taking a huge pay-cut, the team’s payroll is projected at a lower number this year.
With a new stadium opening, and a vastly upgraded team on the field, the Yankees should continue to buck all the economic trends in baseball.
The Yankees signed three type A free agents, a trend we’ll see as baseball becomes more frugal, as the compensatory blow lessens as free agents pile up.
Early in the offseason, few knew that Raul Ibanez would end up being one of the offseason’s biggest winners. Adam Dunn was expected to get a five-year deal worth about $60 million to $80 million, the slugging lefty ended up signing two-year, $20 million deal.
Milton Bradley, primed to get his first long-term contract of his career coming off of one of the most complete offensive seasons by any player in 2008, settled for a three-year, $30 million deal, but one that gives him financial security and consistency he hasn’t had to this point in his career.
And now for a much longer list of losers.
Corner outfielders took perhaps the biggest hit. Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., and Garrett Anderson all signed deals far lower than expected. Burrell, thought to be one of the offseason’s top free agents, will now be a designated hitter in Tampa Bay for two years, $16 million. Griffey is able to finish his career where it began, but at an extremely reduced price tag.
Other top free agents, namely Type A Free Agents, took the next biggest hit. As documented, and brought to public knowledge in Moneyball, a book which detailed the 2003 offseason of the Oakland A’s, players classified as Type A free agents require the signing team to surrender their first-round pick if they sign such a free agent, provided their previous-year team offered them arbitration upon their departure.
Teams that have one of the top 15 picks must surrender their second-round pick, not their first. The dynamic this created in this offseason was the teams would rather give up important, though perhaps less promising pieces of their farm system to trade for a valuable player than give up a first rounder and compensate the player financially also.
This dynamic was best personified by Juan Cruz. Cruz, classified a Type A free agent after two very good seasons in Arizona, drew little interest. As a setup man, his role was clearly not one worthy of giving up a first-round pick as well as significant financial compensation. Cruz ended up signing a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Kansas City Royals.
A similar story can be told about Joe Beimel. Beimel, though not a Type A free agent, appeared to have quite a bit of leverage going into the offseason. He’d pitched well as a Dodger, but had a difference of opinion with the team.
In previous years, left-handed relief has perhaps been over-compensated. Beimel signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Washington Nationals.
Also hit by the “Type A curse” were the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers at one time appeared primed for a very strong offseason, with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets entering free agency as Type A free agents.
What the Brewers and baseball fans didn’t foresee were the Yankees picking up both of the top-two rated Type A free agents. When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it meant that the Yankees first round pick would go to the Angels, leaving the Brewers with the Yanks second-rounder. Then bad got worse.
Ben Sheets neared a deal with the Texas Rangers, one which only pended a physical. In that physical it was discovered that the former ace, already facing concerns about the health of his shoulder, had a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.
Sheets opted to have surgery on his elbow, one the Brewers footed the bill for, and likely won’t sign until after the June amateur draft, meaning the Brewers will forego draft-pick compensation.
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