Off days suck, but they provide an opportunity to look around baseball. Today the big news was the switch in representation for next year’s biggest free agent Robinson Cano. Cano formerly a client of Scott “Always Test the Market” Boras is now represented by CAA group. While the Yankees have downplayed this as a sign that Cano is going to stay, it cannot be underestimated as a signal that he intends to resign.
This is yet another blow to an already weak impeding free agent class. According to MLB Trade Rumors this was their top 10 free agents heading into 2014:
1. Robinson Cano
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Josh Johnson
4. Jacoby Ellsbury
5. Shin-Soo Choo
6. Roy Halladay
7. Hunter Pence
8. Brian McCann
9. Tim Lincecum
10. Matt Garza
The guys on the outside of their top 10 list include Curtis Granderson, Corey Hart, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Jason Hammel, and Chase Utley. Adam Wainwright has already signed an extension, and so with Robinson Cano off the board your top free agents in 2014 will be Josh Johnson and Jacoby Ellsbury, who may or may not hit the market themselves.
Many writers have taken on the topic of free agency being dead. Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron each wrote a piece about how free agency is changing. Cameron’s piece was inspired by Neyer’s piece which was inspired by an article from nearly a year ago on the Wall Street Journal. The consensus is that impact level talent in prime years won’t be hitting the free agent market in the next several seasons. That the purpose of free agency is shifting from acquiring building block type players to guys that can supplement a roster.
The Dodgers were the most likely team to acquire Robinson Cano if he hits the free agent market, but the Cubs could not be completely discounted. The Cubs have over 35 million coming off the books, and some will be eaten up by arbitration increases there is a still a significant amount to invest in one player. Theo Epstein also spoke about the Cubs goal this year to not be in between.
“It’d be nice to make the playoffs or get a protected draft pick…”
The focus on protected draft pick is interesting. He could be focusing on the protected part because those are the highest draft picks with the highest slot money. But Epstein chooses his words very carefully, and signing a free agent with compenation tied to him makes the most sense in an offseason with a protected pick. Cano would have provided a middle of the order, left handed bat at a middle infield spot. The fit, while costly, was certainly there.
Instead the focus shifts backs to developing impact players because free agency is only going to provide guys with question marks or in decline going forward. The approach the Cubs are taking is what needs to be done because the days of buying core guys are gone.