MLB free agency is evolving. No longer are teams willing to throw cash at established veteran players and hope it all works out. The focus has shifted to younger, home-grown talent. Why? Because major league contracts are fully guaranteed. Should a player struggle, it doesn’t matter. They signed on the dotted line, and now they are owed everything they were offered on that contract. For these five players, their teams may already be regretting the decision to bring them on board.
Darvish was considered the big fish of the 2018 offseason. The four-time all-star was rewarded with a massive six-year, $126 million contract that keeps him on the Chicago Cubs payroll through his age-36 season in 2023. So far, Darvish has more DL stints than he does wins. He missed time in early May with the flu and he was placed backed on the injured list this week with tendinitis in his right triceps. Perhaps that is the reason he has an 82 ERA+ and 4.80 FIP over eight starts.
A recurring theme for several of the most disappointing free agent signings is how late they signed in the offseason. Cobb didn’t put pen to paper on his deal until March 21, one week prior to Opening Day. His season debut finally came on April 14, but that first month was a real struggle. Through his first three starts, Cobb went 0-3 with a 13.11 ERA and .484 batting average against. He has bounced back since then but still holds a -0.8 WAR for the year.
Another pitcher who missed most of spring training. Lynn joined the Twins on March 12 and was able to go north with the team to open the 2018 season. Like Cobb, April was an issue. Batters slashed .290/.427/.516 against the right-hander in his first five starts. His ERA has improved (3.98 in May), but opposing batters still have a .309 batting average this month. Thankfully for the Twins, Lynn is only signed for one season.
How very Mets of them to have one of their top free agent pickups struggle so much almost immediately. ERA isn’t everything, but odds are that a 10.62 ERA through five starts indicates pretty poor performance. Add in a 36 ERA+, 6.50 FIP and 2.16 WHIP and all sides can agree that Vargas has been really bad in 2018. The lefty’s contract runs through 2019 with a team option for 2020. At this rate, he may not even be in the big leagues anymore by the time the decision to pick up that option needs to be made.
It’s safe to say that Holland may not have the best best people around him. The reliever first declined a player option for 2018 to return to the Rockies for $15 million. Then, he turned down the qualifying offer that would have paid him $17.4 million in pursuit of a longer contract worth more overall money. That deal never came and, instead, he had to settle for a one-year, $14 million offer with the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s not an awful outcome provided Holland pitched well enough to re-enter the free agent market on solid footing. Fast forward to late May, Holland has no saves, a 9.45 ERA, 41 ERA+ and 5.95 FIP. To add injury to insult, he just hit the DL with a hip injury. The 32-year-old may find next offseason to be even less pleasant.