The free agent market has been slow to develop early in the offseason, with very few high-profile signings in the books as Thanksgiving approaches. Things should start kicking into gear now that the Winter Meetings are just two weeks away, but it's worth wondering whether the first few contracts are indicators of how the offseason climate will shape up once the dominos really begin to fall.
When the Cubs lured Scott Baker away from the Twins earlier in the month, many were surprised that it took $5.5 million in guaranteed money to do so. That's just more than you typically see going to a mostly unproven player coming off major surgery.
The baseball world did another double-take last week when Melky Cabrera signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Jays. The outfielder's performance over the past couple seasons has justified that type of payday and then some, but is tainted by a 50-game PED suspension.
Two guys with sizable question marks getting big guaranteed money. At that rate, just imagine what will happen when the established, healthy and relatively spot-free free agents begin to sign.
Now, by nature, contracts signed in November tend to come out higher than expected. The players who sign early are generally coveted by particular clubs that will put forth an "offer they can't refuse" to finish the deal. That might be what we're seeing here.
Then again, this also might be a sign that money will be flowing freely this winter. Every MLB club is in line to receive a major revenue boost in a year when new TV deals with Fox and Turner Sports kick in. Factor in other streams and basic inflation, and we could be looking at an overall market shift toward higher spending.
If that's the case, the $20 million that we expect the Twins to have in the coffers might not go as far as we'd hoped. But we won't be able to make that assumption until a few more contracts are inked and we have a more representative sample to consider.
At the end of the day, it might just turn out that the Cubs and Jays were very eager to make a splash.