Houston Astros owner Jim Crane confirms what everyone around the game has known for the past couple offseasons: Free agency has changed.
Crane spoke about this year’s slow free-agent market, saying he doesn’t believe 10-year deals are going to happen in baseball anymore.
Crane referenced both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado while making that comment to MLB.com’s Alyson Footer.
Might there be a reunion with FAs Keuchel and/or Marwin? At Astros gala, owner Jim Crane indicates door is open. “We’ve got a couple guys that were here last year that are a possibility to be back here (this) year. We hope that happens.” pic.twitter.com/aakXzsGZny
— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) January 26, 2019
Crane also mentioned that teams are “very focused on value.” That shouldn’t come as a surprise based on what fans have seen this winter.
There is a difference between “focusing on value” and ignoring clear upgrades on the market. Ten-year deals are a risk, no one is arguing that. But if you’re going to hand out a 10-year deal to any player, Harper and Machado check all those boxes.
Both players are 26 years old and have a history of putting up superstar-caliber numbers. Aging curves suggest both players would remain elite for the majority of those deals. Should teams really be worrying about Year 9 or Year 10 when the first eight years of the deal project to be pretty great? Not to mention modern baseball contracts have included early opt-out clauses. The team that signs Harper or Machado will likely include an opt-out after a couple seasons, making it unlikely those players stay for the full 10 years if they keep producing.
There are risks, of course. The Los Angeles Angels aren’t getting a lot of production from Albert Pujols now. Troy Tulowitzki got hammered by injuries. But what about guys like Todd Helton, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Those deals were all wins. Say what you want about Rodriguez away from the field, but he produced excellent numbers.
That’s not to say teams should hand out 10-year deals to every single player. It’s just to point out not every 10-year deal ends in disaster.
Crane’s comments seem to be the norm among owners right now, though. Unless something drastically changes within the game, it’s tough to see any team make that commitment in the near future.
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