The 2017 offseason was one of the worst on record for the free agent. This may have spilled over into the regular season as well.
We saw Jake Arrieta and J. D. Martinez sit in free agency for longer than they thought they would. They also settled for millions less. They are both delivering for their respective teams. Martinez adds significantly to Boston’s power stats, and Arrieta has brought quite a bit of gravitas to the youthful Phillies pitching staff.
The Padres made a great investment in Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain is the best thing to happen to the Brewers in a long time. These are some of the biggest deals that took place in last year’s market, and they are working fine. However, they are the exception, not the rule.
Yu Darvish was recently DL’d in the wake of a terrible season for the Cubs. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are both being paid not to play for the Red Sox. Robinson Cano violated league drug policy and is currently serving an 80 game suspension. Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Scott Kazmir, all relatively high flying free agents, are all currently not playing. Headley actually got released.
Other underperformers who signed free agent deals include Albert Pujols, Victor Martinez, Ian Kennedy, Jeff Samardzija, Shin-Soo Choo, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. This does not even include players like Hunter Pence and Homer Bailey, both of whom signed extensions before they became free agents. Neither of those players is currently active.
The way that teams sign free agents must be changed away from a purely statistical practice. Looking at spreadsheets and blindly signing players off of cold stats obviously does not work. If the Players Association does not negotiate a new system for younger players to get involved in free agency, teams can expect much more wasted money for less performance.