Buxton? Semien? Everybody’s signing!
The normal Major League Baseball offseason is long and only occasionally punctuated by major transactions. Sure, there are a few periods of higher transactional traffic—namely, around the Winter Meetings, held in December—but there’s not a lot of pressure to sign guys or make trades right out of the gate. Generally speaking, a free agent signing from December is just as likely to succeed as a free agent signing from March.
This is…not the case for the other major American professional sports, whose free agency periods are wild affairs that take place over an extremely short period of time. This is especially true for the NFL and NBA, where it sometimes seems like the owners and agents are playing a real life version of the yearly SB Nation MLB Offseason Simulation.
Consider NBA free agency this year, which was absolutely bonkers. On Monday, August 2, teams were allowed to begin negotiating with free agents, with free agency itself technically not beginning for another few days. Regardless of that technicality, the activity was immediate and immense. Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter feed from the first few days shows the carnage the best. A whopping 50 players signed deals on that Monday alone, and furthermore, every player but one who signed a multi-year deal at $20 million or more per year signed by that Friday—the lone holdout, Kawhi Leonard, inked his deal less than 10 days after the whole thing started.
For fans of these sports, this type of free agency objectively and totally rules. Even if your team doesn’t make major moves, chances are good that your team will make some moves. Furthermore, it’s always interesting to see what your competition does, and seeing so much movement happen at once is just plain fun.
Now, traditionally, there have been many reasons why MLB free agency is slower in a standard normal year. Unlike the NBA or NFL, MLB does not have a salary cap or salary floor, which means that there are essentially no external forces in the free agency department. Additionally, MLB players are under team control for longer, making extensions less necessary and making it less likely that the best players reach free agency at their physical peak.
But that year is not this year. This year, the floodgates have opened up, and it is awesome. Reading Jeff Passan’s Twitter feed—the closest thing we have to a Woj feed—is a joy, for it is big news after big news after big news. It started last week with news that 20-year-old Wander Franco was signing a $200 million extension with the Rays.
Shortstop Wander Franco and the Tampa Bay Rays are in agreement on a 12-year contract that guarantees him around $185 million, sources tell ESPN. The deal is worth a maximum of $223 million. It is done, pending small details. The 20-year-old is going to be a Ray for a long time.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 23, 2021
That same day, Stephen Matz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for $44 million guaranteed, and it has only gotten crazier from there. Three days ago, the best free agent center fielder, Starling Marte, signed with the New York Mets for $78 million.
Center fielder Starling Marte and the New York Mets are in agreement on a four-year, $78 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
The Mets’ big day just got a whole lot bigger as they get the best CF on the market.
First with the news was @JonHeyman.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 27, 2021
And, yesterday, news broke that the Minnesota Twins were extending Byron Buxton for $100 million, the Miami Marlins were signing Avisail Garcia for $53 million, the Texas Rangers were signing Marcus Semien for $175 million, and the Blue Jays were signing Kevin Gausman for $110 million. It is, um, not going to slow down.
The madness is just beginning. This is gonna be a whale of a 24 hours.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 28, 2021
This is happening to baseball for one big reason and one big reason only: we’re practically guaranteed to have a lockout thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, as the current CBA ends on December 1 at midnight and we don’t have a new one. This means that there will be a freeze on free agency and trades beginning December 2, and thereby that means that anybody who wants to have a home before the lockout happens needs to sign by December 2.
Nobody wants a lockout or a strike, and everybody involved from fans to ownership would rather see a normal offseason. However, if there is a silver lining to this, it’s that fans are getting a taste of true offseason excitement because of the veritable blizzard of activity that’s going on. Hopefully, the league takes this into account when the CBA negotiations are in full swing, because implementing more fun and generating buzz about your sport in said sport’s offseason is hard. It’s fun right now, though, and I will take what I can get.