BS Report: February 6th
Here we are a week from spring training and there are still over 100 free agents unsigned. Usually, there would only be a handful of free agents available before the start of spring training, but for the second straight year the baseball offseason has been a dud. This is a sign the game is changing for a variety of reasons. Perhaps when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado – the two biggest free agents – sign, we will see the dominoes fall and most players will get signed. But this slow activity shows teams simply do not want to get locked into long-term contracts that they will regret a few years later. Look at Jason Heyward’s contract with the Cubs from a few years ago. He signed an eight-year, $183-million-dollar contract before the 2016 season. Heyward has hit only .252 with the Cubs in three seasons with 26 home runs. He had 27 home runs in his second season with the Braves back in 2011. The Cubs are stuck with him for five more years and $105 million more dollars. These teams have just been bit with bad deals. They are sick of it, and they are also afraid of giving players huge money into their mid-30s. Harper and Machado are great players now in the mid-20s, but what will they be worth a decade from now when they are 36? Teams don’t want to pay a player what they were worth in their mid-20s when they likely won’t be as good a decade later. This means younger players – cheaper players – will be the premium in baseball. The prime years are no longer between 28 and 31 or even between 26 and 29. That’s why teams are shying away from paying big money to these older, veteran players. So, if all of this is true, does that mean the Braves can benefit from these changes? They still have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Even with a lot of prospects graduating to the big leagues last year, the Braves still have a ton of prospects on the way. Between MLB.com, ESPN and Baseball America, nine different Braves prospects were listed on their top 100 lists. – And maybe this is why Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been so patient this offseason. We wanted Bryce Harper, but maybe his approach will be best. Atlanta’s rebuild was accelerated last year when they won the division, and now, the changes in the sport could make the timing of the Braves rebuild perfect. They could still add a player or two – maybe even Craig Kimbrel – but perhaps the Braves best offseason acquisitions are already in their organization. Perhaps these young prospects will be the key to Atlanta getting back to the World Series.