The Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have come and gone, with three weeks remaining to grab free agents before the Christmas holiday.
There were 186 free agents that hit the market after the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, and a month later, there still are about 175 free agents still unemployed.
The two highest-paid free agents are the ones who accepted their $18.9 million qualifying offers: Kevin Gausman of the San Francisco Giants and Marcus Stroman of the New York Mets.
No team has spent more than the Atlanta Braves, who dished out $27.25 million for veteran pitchers Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly and Josh Tomlin.
And starter Mike Minor of the Kansas City Royals, once he passes his physical, is the only free agent who received a multi-year deal.
There has been just $86.5 million spent so far in the 35 days since the start of free agency, and the deep freeze will only get worse after the 8 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for teams to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players on their 40-man roster.
The non-tendered players will immediately become free agents.
Considering that teams lost $3 billion in the pandemic, according to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, with revenues expected to plummet again if fan attendance is severely limited 2021, owners will lower their payrolls again.
Teams like the Cleveland Indians already are in full cost-cutting mode. They are shopping All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor after refusing to pick up the $10 million option on three-time All-Star closer Brad Hand.
You don’t resign a year early and walk away from $10 million like Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein or step down as chairman of the San Diego Padres like Ron Fowler if you don’t know that painful cutbacks are coming. The Dodgers just laid off about 60 employees and the Philadelphia Phillies dismissed about 80 people alone in the last week.
There were 53 players who were non-tendered a year ago, including Gausman, Blake Treinen and Taijuan Walker.
What further complicates teams’ decisions is that MLB and the players union still have not reached an agreement on a formula on how statistics during the shortened 60-game season will be viewed by arbitrators. The union wants the 2020 stats multiplied by 2.7, while MLB believes it shouldn’t be that simple.
Here are the biggest names teams are discussing whether to submit contract offers by Wednesday night (arbitration salary projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors):
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs: Crazy, huh? Who would have ever believed a year ago that Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP and three-time All-Star, would be under consideration to be non-tendered? After the worst season of his career (.206 average, .293 OBP, .351 SLG with four home runs and 11 RBI), playing just 34 of the 60 games with five different injuries, the Cubs are intent on trading him before opening day. It’s highly unlikely they’ll non-tender him, even with a projected salary of $18.6 million, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees: He’s a two-time All-Star catcher who hit 34 homers with 77 RBI a year ago. But last season, he hit just .147 with 64 strikeouts in 156 at-bats and was benched in five of the Yankees’ seven playoff games. Do they really want to give him about a $1 million raise from his $5 million salary of last year? Owner Hal Steinbrenner said the Yankees lost more than any team last year, an amount the New York Post reported is close to $220 million.
Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins: Rosario has hit 96 homers the past four years, but he’s also going to cost $9.6 million to $12 million. Considering the Twins have two former first-round outfielders in Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, who also hit left-handed, Rosario is expendable. The low-budget Twins could spend the savings on a one-year contract for a right-handed-hitting left fielder while acquiring pitching depth.