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Drew Silva analyzes the trades, signings, and rumors from the third day of baseball's Winter Meetings in Orlando
Winter Meetings: Day Three
Drew Silva analyzes the trades, signings, and rumors from the third day of baseball's Winter Meetings in Orlando
Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler (3) scores a run against the Chicago White Sox in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Angels get 2B Ian Kinsler from Tigers for 2 minor leaguers
Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler (3) scores a run against the Chicago White Sox in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler removes his batting helmet after popping out with two on against the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers have agreed to trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
Angels get 2B Ian Kinsler from Tigers for 2 minor leaguers
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler removes his batting helmet after popping out with two on against the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers have agreed to trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler removes his batting helmet after popping out with two on against the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers have agreed to trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler removes his batting helmet after popping out with two on against the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers have agreed to trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, Detroit Tigers' Ian Kinsler removes his batting helmet after popping out with two on against the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers have agreed to trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor leaguers, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FaceTime: JD Martinez meets and greets, Ozuna to Cards
Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Miami Marlins' Marcell Ozuna watches his RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta. A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
FaceTime: JD Martinez meets and greets, Ozuna to Cards
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Miami Marlins' Marcell Ozuna watches his RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta. A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FaceTime: JD Martinez meets and greets, Ozuna to Cards
Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Miami Marlins' Marcell Ozuna watches his RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta. A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Miami Marlins' Marcell Ozuna watches his RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta. A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Miami Marlins' Marcell Ozuna watches his RBI triple during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta. A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami has agreed to trade left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, the third All-Star jettisoned by the Marlins this month in an unrelenting payroll purge under new CEO Derek Jeter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced and was subject to a physical. (AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Searching for Enthusiasm
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
The Accidental Activist
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
The Accidental Activist
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Searching for Enthusiasm
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
The Accidental Activist
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Searching for Enthusiasm
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
The Accidental Activist
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, American minor league baseball player, Don Goss, quickly finds himself in over his head as a social justice icon after he leaves the field during the Canadian National Anthem. Interpreting the act as a defiant message against Canada’s tariffs on U.S. dairy imports, the media labels Don Goss as an American hero.
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
Searching for Enthusiasm
SEARCHING FOR ENTHUSIASM follows two sisters, Erica and Amy, who discover the exploits of their mother and “Eddie the Erie Enthusiast”, a minor league baseball mascot turned WWII hero who was officially declared MIA during a battle. After finding out that he's alive, the sisters travel cross-country to finally meet their father and prove that blood and polyester Eagle suits are thicker than water.
FILE - In this Saturday, July 22, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper waits to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Phoenix. With Bryce Harper a year from free agency, the agent for Washington's star opened contract talk with the Nationals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
Bryce Harper's agent opened contract talk with Nationals
FILE - In this Saturday, July 22, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper waits to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Phoenix. With Bryce Harper a year from free agency, the agent for Washington's star opened contract talk with the Nationals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 22, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper waits to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Phoenix. With Bryce Harper a year from free agency, the agent for Washington's star opened contract talk with the Nationals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 22, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper waits to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Phoenix. With Bryce Harper a year from free agency, the agent for Washington's star opened contract talk with the Nationals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 22, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper waits to bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Phoenix. With Bryce Harper a year from free agency, the agent for Washington's star opened contract talk with the Nationals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Edinson Volquez looks out from the dugout during a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Injured right-hander Volquez released by Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Edinson Volquez looks out from the dugout during a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres looks on during a spring training baseball workout, in Tampa, Fla. On the day top Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres turned 21, New York general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team's big league staff wanted him on last year's opening-day roster. Torres season ended when he tore a left elbow ligament in June, and he could start at third base or second base next year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Some Yanks wanted Gleyber Torres in big leagues last season
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres looks on during a spring training baseball workout, in Tampa, Fla. On the day top Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres turned 21, New York general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team's big league staff wanted him on last year's opening-day roster. Torres season ended when he tore a left elbow ligament in June, and he could start at third base or second base next year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres looks on during a spring training baseball workout, in Tampa, Fla. On the day top Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres turned 21, New York general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team's big league staff wanted him on last year's opening-day roster. Torres’ season ended when he tore a left elbow ligament in June, and he could start at third base or second base next year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres looks on during a spring training baseball workout, in Tampa, Fla. On the day top Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres turned 21, New York general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team's big league staff wanted him on last year's opening-day roster. Torres’ season ended when he tore a left elbow ligament in June, and he could start at third base or second base next year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres looks on during a spring training baseball workout, in Tampa, Fla. On the day top Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres turned 21, New York general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team's big league staff wanted him on last year's opening-day roster. Torres’ season ended when he tore a left elbow ligament in June, and he could start at third base or second base next year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Andre Chiaveli, right, hands out samples of Home Run Licorice available in two flavors, Round Tripper red licorice and Long Ball traditional black licorice, at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The licorice is meant to replace the use of chewing tobacco among players. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
Andre Chiaveli, right, hands out samples of Home Run Licorice available in two flavors, Round Tripper red licorice and Long Ball traditional black licorice, at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The licorice is meant to replace the use of chewing tobacco among players. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Rick Scollon of Scollon Mascots and Characters, Inc. works his booth at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
Rick Scollon of Scollon Mascots and Characters, Inc. works his booth at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Video scoreboards were among the items on display at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
Video scoreboards were among the items on display at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Hats from virtually every major and minor league team, including the Peoria Distillers, a minor league baseball team that existed on-and-off from 1894 to 1917 were available at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
Hats from virtually every major and minor league team, including the Peoria Distillers, a minor league baseball team that existed on-and-off from 1894 to 1917 were available at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
A chair and ottoman shaped like a baseball glove was on display at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
A chair and ottoman shaped like a baseball glove was on display at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Kris Dehnert of Dugout Mugs looks over a mug shaped like the end of a bat at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The mugs depict various teams, players and cities. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Need bobbleheads or Diamond Dust? Meetings show is way to go
Kris Dehnert of Dugout Mugs looks over a mug shaped like the end of a bat at a trade show at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The mugs depict various teams, players and cities. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
'25-Year-Old Baseball Cards': These were the best trades of 2017
'25-Year-Old Baseball Cards': These were the best trades of 2017
'25-Year-Old Baseball Cards': These were the best trades of 2017
Chase Utley, Pedro Martinez and Aaron Boone were among the best traders on "25-Year-Old Baseball Cards" this year. (Yahoo Sports)
25-Year-Old Baseball Cards: Best trades of 2017
Chase Utley, Pedro Martinez and Aaron Boone were among the best traders on "25-Year-Old Baseball Cards" this year. (Yahoo Sports)
FILE - In this May 5, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of an interleague baseball game, in Chicago. The Minnesota Twins have signed former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, giving a two-year, $10 million contract to the right-hander recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Recovering Pineda, Twins agree to $10M, 2-year deal
FILE - In this May 5, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of an interleague baseball game, in Chicago. The Minnesota Twins have signed former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, giving a two-year, $10 million contract to the right-hander recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
<p>LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Taking inventory of this free agent market makes clear how baseball is played these days, and what’s wrong with it.</p><p>There are 11 free agents on the market who hit at least 25 home runs this year. None have signed. They have been lingering for two months on the shelf like loaves of bread past their due date.</p><p>Meanwhile, teams have treated 30-something setup relievers like bread just before a blizzard: snapping them up at seemingly any cost. Before a single home run hitter has signed, clubs have rushed to hand out $133 million to seven veteran relievers who are not closers, covering 16 years of commitment. (An eighth, Juan Nicasio, will be next, to Seattle.) That’s an average price of $8.31 million for older guys to pitch about 60 innings a year—if these blue collar workers even manage to hold up under strenuous work, which they tend not to do.</p><p>This is no knock on the Bryan Shaws, Pat Nesheks and Jake McGees of the baseball world, but the run on relief pitching reflects one of the worst parts of today’s game: a parade of relatively anonymous, interchangeable pitchers following one another to the mound to slow down the game and depress offense. No offense guys, but nobody besides the immediate families of said pitchers ever bought a ticket to watch middle relievers face a batter or two.</p><p>The more relief pitching takes over the game, the more starting pitchers are devalued. And the more starting pitchers are devalued, the fewer marquee names there are to generate interest, viewers and ticket sales. The magnitude of the starting pitcher matchup traditionally helped sell the game. We are losing that attraction by putting more and more of the game into the hands of relievers.</p><p>“Years ago when I started out with the Diamondbacks,” said Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, “you would divide up your budget like a pie, portioning certain amounts to certain areas of the club. The one part that was always the smallest–the one place where you could cut back and save money–was the bullpen. That’s not even close to being the case any more.</p><p>“The past few years the bullpen was the place where you saw [potential playoff] teams load up in July. Now what you’re seeing is all teams loading up in the bullpen now.”</p><p> Brandon Morrow and Anthony Swarzak are the kinds of stories that have become common around baseball. Both of them are 33 years old and never quite established a foothold in the game. They have pitched for nine combined big league teams. But both of them discovered this year they could carve out a niche by throwing mid- to upper-90s fastballs at the top of the zone in short outings—basically maxing out on high heat against a generation of sluggers vulnerable to such pitches while looking to launch the baseball.</p><p>The Cubs handed Morrow $21 million over two years. The Mets gave Swarzak $14 million over two years.</p><p>“He’s got that high fastball and developed a nasty slider,” said Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, referring to Swarzak, and also to the winning formula in a bullpen world where sinking and deadening the baseball are becoming extinct. “And what you love is that he gets out lefthanders and righthanders.”</p><p>Eiland was pitching coach with the 2014-15 Royals, who rode a strong bullpen to repeat pennants and a World Series title.</p><p>“We kind of started it,” Eiland said. “But it used to be that you needed three guys: two set-up guys and a closer. Now you need those three guys and then you need three guys in front of them. Starters are going shorter, so there are going to be nights when one, two or three of your big guys are going to be down [for rest]. So you’re going to need three other guys. And because of that, you can’t have the soft underbelly of your staff that teams had a few years ago.”</p><p>The value and cachet of the job has increased quickly. Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin tells the story of how his analytics advisors looked at John Axford just four years ago. The closer saved 46 games for Milwaukee in 2011 and 35 in 2012.</p><p>“They told me we were better off trading him,” Melvin said, “because he was getting expensive and relief pitchers were pretty much interchangeable. The idea back then was that relievers were fungible.”</p><p>Axford earned a $5 million salary in 2013. Before the year was out the Brewers traded him to St. Louis.</p><p>“Now the people in the room are all looking at the numbers and saying how valuable relievers are,” Melvin said.</p><p>There is no doubt relievers have become more valuable, if only because more of them are needed. But is it wise to give a reliever in his 30s a multi-year deal after it took years of back-breaking work just to get to free agency?</p><p>Let’s rewind the clock to the free agent market just two years to get an idea. After the 2015 season, teams handed out multi-year deals to 14 non-closer relievers at the cost of $197 million, or about $5.8 million per pitcher per season. In just two years, 13 of those 14 pitchers have either been hurt, pitched poorly (ERA+ worse than 100) or are no longer with the same team. Only one of the 14 pitchers has pitched effectively for his signing club for two years: Joakim Soria of the Royals.</p><p>The landscape is littered with the likes of Tony Sipp (three years, $18 million), Antonio Bastardo (two, $12 million) and Mark Lowe (two, $11 million). Last year you had Brett Cecil (four years, $30.5 million and one of the rare no-trade clauses for someone who neither starts or closes games), Brad Ziegler (two, $16 million), Mark Rzepczynski (two years, $11 million) and Daniel Hudson (two, $11 million). All of them were disappointments.</p><p>It’s hard to expect that pitchers who work often, including all the times they warm up on the chance they might get in, will continue to be healthy and productive as they age through their 30s with all those miles on their odometer–but those are the expectations teams bring to the free agent market.</p><p>This free agent market is loaded with All-Star sluggers such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. There was a time not to long ago when teams would press quickly to get such big hitters signed. But now there are too many home runs in the game to consider 25 dingers something that needs to be chased urgently. What’s more urgent in this market is grabbing more and more faceless relievers who are hop-scotching from team to team.</p><p>***</p><p>Having whiffed on Giancarlo Stanton, and knowing Martinez is not a good value for a National League team, the Cardinals get one of the best impact bats on the market in arranging a trade to get Marcell Osuna from the Marlins. Ozuna doesn’t walk much, but he has tremendous bat-to-ball skills that combine power and average. Last year he hit .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBI. Only three other active players have reached those triple crown thresholds: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp. St. Louis controls Osuna for two seasons before he hits free agency … Zack Greinke bounced back last season with better catchers working with him, better game-planning from the staff, and by throwing the greatest percentage of breaking balls for him since 2011. But Greinke’s contract chews up 27 percent of the team payroll as Arizona runs into big raises for arbitration eligible … Here’s Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash on why Alex Cobb virtually stopped throwing his split-change: “Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he just never had a feel for it. So he developed his breaking ball more. Alex is so studious about everything he does. Think about it: he pitched great and he didn’t have his best pitch. Imagine how great he would be with the feel for his best pitch.” … And on Chris Archer throwing more and more sliders without truly developing an effective changeup, Cash said, “His changeup can be good at times. It’s just that his slider is so good, it’s so hard when you’re looking in for the sign to shake off that slider, which is such a great pitch, to throw the changeup.” … The Marlins released Edinson Volquez, paying him $18 million to go away essentially to free up a roster spot. Here’s a reminder when you are a fan of a bad team and you want it to sign free agents this time of year: be careful what you wish for. Here are the Marlins’ free agent signings this decade: Volquez, Ziegler, Wei-Yin Chen, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Placido Polanco, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, John Buck and Javier Vazquez. Ouch.</p>
Winter Meetings Notebook: Free Agency Reveals Unprecedented Market Value of Relief Pitchers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Taking inventory of this free agent market makes clear how baseball is played these days, and what’s wrong with it.

There are 11 free agents on the market who hit at least 25 home runs this year. None have signed. They have been lingering for two months on the shelf like loaves of bread past their due date.

Meanwhile, teams have treated 30-something setup relievers like bread just before a blizzard: snapping them up at seemingly any cost. Before a single home run hitter has signed, clubs have rushed to hand out $133 million to seven veteran relievers who are not closers, covering 16 years of commitment. (An eighth, Juan Nicasio, will be next, to Seattle.) That’s an average price of $8.31 million for older guys to pitch about 60 innings a year—if these blue collar workers even manage to hold up under strenuous work, which they tend not to do.

This is no knock on the Bryan Shaws, Pat Nesheks and Jake McGees of the baseball world, but the run on relief pitching reflects one of the worst parts of today’s game: a parade of relatively anonymous, interchangeable pitchers following one another to the mound to slow down the game and depress offense. No offense guys, but nobody besides the immediate families of said pitchers ever bought a ticket to watch middle relievers face a batter or two.

The more relief pitching takes over the game, the more starting pitchers are devalued. And the more starting pitchers are devalued, the fewer marquee names there are to generate interest, viewers and ticket sales. The magnitude of the starting pitcher matchup traditionally helped sell the game. We are losing that attraction by putting more and more of the game into the hands of relievers.

“Years ago when I started out with the Diamondbacks,” said Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, “you would divide up your budget like a pie, portioning certain amounts to certain areas of the club. The one part that was always the smallest–the one place where you could cut back and save money–was the bullpen. That’s not even close to being the case any more.

“The past few years the bullpen was the place where you saw [potential playoff] teams load up in July. Now what you’re seeing is all teams loading up in the bullpen now.”

Brandon Morrow and Anthony Swarzak are the kinds of stories that have become common around baseball. Both of them are 33 years old and never quite established a foothold in the game. They have pitched for nine combined big league teams. But both of them discovered this year they could carve out a niche by throwing mid- to upper-90s fastballs at the top of the zone in short outings—basically maxing out on high heat against a generation of sluggers vulnerable to such pitches while looking to launch the baseball.

The Cubs handed Morrow $21 million over two years. The Mets gave Swarzak $14 million over two years.

“He’s got that high fastball and developed a nasty slider,” said Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, referring to Swarzak, and also to the winning formula in a bullpen world where sinking and deadening the baseball are becoming extinct. “And what you love is that he gets out lefthanders and righthanders.”

Eiland was pitching coach with the 2014-15 Royals, who rode a strong bullpen to repeat pennants and a World Series title.

“We kind of started it,” Eiland said. “But it used to be that you needed three guys: two set-up guys and a closer. Now you need those three guys and then you need three guys in front of them. Starters are going shorter, so there are going to be nights when one, two or three of your big guys are going to be down [for rest]. So you’re going to need three other guys. And because of that, you can’t have the soft underbelly of your staff that teams had a few years ago.”

The value and cachet of the job has increased quickly. Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin tells the story of how his analytics advisors looked at John Axford just four years ago. The closer saved 46 games for Milwaukee in 2011 and 35 in 2012.

“They told me we were better off trading him,” Melvin said, “because he was getting expensive and relief pitchers were pretty much interchangeable. The idea back then was that relievers were fungible.”

Axford earned a $5 million salary in 2013. Before the year was out the Brewers traded him to St. Louis.

“Now the people in the room are all looking at the numbers and saying how valuable relievers are,” Melvin said.

There is no doubt relievers have become more valuable, if only because more of them are needed. But is it wise to give a reliever in his 30s a multi-year deal after it took years of back-breaking work just to get to free agency?

Let’s rewind the clock to the free agent market just two years to get an idea. After the 2015 season, teams handed out multi-year deals to 14 non-closer relievers at the cost of $197 million, or about $5.8 million per pitcher per season. In just two years, 13 of those 14 pitchers have either been hurt, pitched poorly (ERA+ worse than 100) or are no longer with the same team. Only one of the 14 pitchers has pitched effectively for his signing club for two years: Joakim Soria of the Royals.

The landscape is littered with the likes of Tony Sipp (three years, $18 million), Antonio Bastardo (two, $12 million) and Mark Lowe (two, $11 million). Last year you had Brett Cecil (four years, $30.5 million and one of the rare no-trade clauses for someone who neither starts or closes games), Brad Ziegler (two, $16 million), Mark Rzepczynski (two years, $11 million) and Daniel Hudson (two, $11 million). All of them were disappointments.

It’s hard to expect that pitchers who work often, including all the times they warm up on the chance they might get in, will continue to be healthy and productive as they age through their 30s with all those miles on their odometer–but those are the expectations teams bring to the free agent market.

This free agent market is loaded with All-Star sluggers such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. There was a time not to long ago when teams would press quickly to get such big hitters signed. But now there are too many home runs in the game to consider 25 dingers something that needs to be chased urgently. What’s more urgent in this market is grabbing more and more faceless relievers who are hop-scotching from team to team.

***

Having whiffed on Giancarlo Stanton, and knowing Martinez is not a good value for a National League team, the Cardinals get one of the best impact bats on the market in arranging a trade to get Marcell Osuna from the Marlins. Ozuna doesn’t walk much, but he has tremendous bat-to-ball skills that combine power and average. Last year he hit .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBI. Only three other active players have reached those triple crown thresholds: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp. St. Louis controls Osuna for two seasons before he hits free agency … Zack Greinke bounced back last season with better catchers working with him, better game-planning from the staff, and by throwing the greatest percentage of breaking balls for him since 2011. But Greinke’s contract chews up 27 percent of the team payroll as Arizona runs into big raises for arbitration eligible … Here’s Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash on why Alex Cobb virtually stopped throwing his split-change: “Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he just never had a feel for it. So he developed his breaking ball more. Alex is so studious about everything he does. Think about it: he pitched great and he didn’t have his best pitch. Imagine how great he would be with the feel for his best pitch.” … And on Chris Archer throwing more and more sliders without truly developing an effective changeup, Cash said, “His changeup can be good at times. It’s just that his slider is so good, it’s so hard when you’re looking in for the sign to shake off that slider, which is such a great pitch, to throw the changeup.” … The Marlins released Edinson Volquez, paying him $18 million to go away essentially to free up a roster spot. Here’s a reminder when you are a fan of a bad team and you want it to sign free agents this time of year: be careful what you wish for. Here are the Marlins’ free agent signings this decade: Volquez, Ziegler, Wei-Yin Chen, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Placido Polanco, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, John Buck and Javier Vazquez. Ouch.

Minnesota Twins starter Anthony Swarzak throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP source: Reliever Swarzak, Mets agree to $14M, 2-year deal
Minnesota Twins starter Anthony Swarzak throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
FILE - In this June 20, 2017, file photo, Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak throws to the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning of a baseball game, in Minneapolis. A person familiar with the contract tells The Associated Press that free-agent reliever Anthony Swarzak has reached a deal with the New York Mets. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, at the winter meetings because Swarzak still needed to complete a physical. Swarzak is set to get $14 million over two years. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)
AP source: Reliever Swarzak, Mets agree to $14M, 2-year deal
FILE - In this June 20, 2017, file photo, Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak throws to the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning of a baseball game, in Minneapolis. A person familiar with the contract tells The Associated Press that free-agent reliever Anthony Swarzak has reached a deal with the New York Mets. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, at the winter meetings because Swarzak still needed to complete a physical. Swarzak is set to get $14 million over two years. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)
FILE - In this May 5, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of an interleague baseball game, in Chicago. The Minnesota Twins have signed former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, giving a two-year, $10 million contract to the right-hander recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
FILE - In this May 5, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of an interleague baseball game, in Chicago. The Minnesota Twins have signed former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, giving a two-year, $10 million contract to the right-hander recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
FILE - In this May 5, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of an interleague baseball game, in Chicago. The Minnesota Twins have signed former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, giving a two-year, $10 million contract to the right-hander recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
How will Mike Scioscia approach Ohtani's versatility?
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
How will Mike Scioscia approach Ohtani's versatility?
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
How will Mike Scioscia approach Ohtani's versatility?
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
How will Mike Scioscia approach Ohtani's versatility?
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about how to utilize two-way player Shohei Ohtani from the baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.

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