Myles Monday Meltdown: Arrieta, Moustakas Contract Craziness

 

 

 

 

It's supposed to flirt with 70 degrees today in Seattle. And that's pretty awesome. Who doesn't love sunshine and mild temps in early spring? You'd have to be crazy to complain about that, right?

Well, allow me to enter the nuthouse.

My apartment faces straight west. And in the Pacific Northwest, the concept of "air conditioning" simply doesn't exist in the home. It exists in places of work, bars, restaurants, stores...but not the home. So on days like today, the difference in temperature from my residence to the outside world is most likely a 10-15 degree swing when the sun starts to set. So like, whatever, I guess. Enjoy your stupid sun.

Also, I think we should start calling it a "sun descent" instead of a "sunset." The latter doesn't give the Sun it's due. It lacks punch. It lacks pazzaz. But "descent..." man, that adds a certain something for a perfectly round star filled with hot plasma that consumes over 600 million tons of hydrogen per second.

Who do I contact about this?

 

Jake
Well, he did it. He signed. When I wrote about the Cubs former Ace last week, a lot of you commented that you thought he'd end up with the Phillies. Guess what, smarty pants? You were right!

On first glance, it looked like the deal was going to be an utter disappointment for a guy and his agent who were reportedly looking for deals similar to that of Max Scherzer (seven-year, $210 million). But the three-year, $75 million contract really is a big win, not only for the Phillies, but also for Arrieta.

For Philadelphia, they get a guy that can compliment Aaron Nola at a price and timeline that isn't out-of-this-world scratch-your-head insanely expensive and long. For Jake, while he doesn't hit his exact target, he gets some interesting control in a year where the market simply didn't play out like everyone thought:

As one of my buddies said, "That's some creative negotiating by Scott Boras." And he's exactly right. Jake is able to take his destiny into his own hands here. Either he underperforms (or performs adequately) in his first two years and has one more year of making star money until he signs (what could be) his final contract for his career. OR he out-performs in those first two years, opts out, and either stays with Phillies as they continue to rebuild or he's able to sign for more money with a strong contender. Win-win.

"Why didn't the Cubs do this deal?"
Saying that this offseason has been weird would be an understatement. The market simply didn't materialize like most thought it would. Are (1) more teams using the "tanking" philosophy? Are (2) player's and team's expectations simply not aligned? Or (3) is collusion happening amongst the league? Who knows... But I'd venture to guess it's a little bit of 1 and a lot a bit of 2. But that's beside the point. Let's talk about Jake and the Cubs real quick.

First, I think it's important to rely on smart people. Look at what Keith Law said in reaction to this deal:

Arrieta went from an eight-win pitcher in 2015 to producing just over five WAR over the past two seasons, as the ridiculous command he showed in his Cy Young season didn't (and perhaps couldn't) last, while his slider has gone from the most effective in baseball to a below-average offering. He doesn't throw it for strikes as often as he did two years ago, and when it's in the zone, hitters hit it more often than they did.

His average fastball velocity is down 2.5 mph (per Fangraphs) in the same span. He also had huge trouble with left-handed hitters last year, giving up much more hard contact to lefties, mostly because they could sit on his fastball. He hasn't been hurt -- he has made 30 or more starts in three straight years -- but perhaps he's wearing down from heavy workloads and the cross-body delivery that has also made him so effective against right-handed batters.

Simply put, Jake was really good for a really long time. But at the same time, he's 32 and has had a bit of a decline in his performance. So for the Cubs, it's time to get younger. Hence, Tyler Chatwood (who, by the way, is still an excellent option and more than capable replacement). In doing this, they're able to remain relatively flexible going into next year where the free agent class contains some top tier players (BRYCE BRYCE BRYCE!!!!!!).

Free Agent Dominoes
Names like Lance Lynn (Twins), Mike Moustakas (Royals), Jonathan Lucroy (A's), and Carlos Gonzaez (Rockies) all started to sign late last week and into the weekend. But again, the story line wasn't necessarily where they signed. It was for how much and how long.

  • Lynn: one-year, $12MM
  • Moose: one-year, $6.5MM
  • Lucroy: one-year, $6.5MM
  • CarGo: one-year, $8MM

That's a lot of one-year deals. Maybe you expect that with both CarGo and Lucroy. Maybe. But Lance Lynn and Mike Moustakas? That makes me scratch my head a bit more. In particular, when I heard the news of Moose's deal, I simply couldn't wrap my head around it:

$15MM option after a base of $5.5MM?!?! I DON'T UNDERSTAND. But my dismay doesn't stop there:

WHAT.

Remember, Moose turned down a $17.4MM qualifying offer from the Royals when the offseason started. Woof.

This offseason has been weird and confusing.

Opening Day
It's almost here! 17 more days until the start of the MLB Opening Day. I cannot wait. And neither can you. Because  we all love baseball, and that's pretty neat.

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  • fb_avatar

    Best wishes to Jake Arrieta!

  • Cubs now get one extra pick for Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta plus money to sign them.

  • The Royals definitely got the better end of that Moustakas deal. Especially with him turning down the earlier $17+ MM.

  • What is the supposed draft pick compensation, given the Phillies draft slot? I would assume in the 30s.

  • In reply to Gator:

    The pick isn't tied to who signs the free agent. If I recall correctly, the Cubs as a team that did not receive revenue sharing nor exceeded the luxury tax threshold last year will receive compensation picks after the competitive balance picks at the end of the second round.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    That sounds right. Not sure if it is 2nd or 3rd round (for some reason I have in my head that teams below a certain market size get a pick after the 2nd round and those above that threshold get a pick after the 3rd round but I am still a little fuzzy about how that works so I may be wrong). I think the FA are "ranked" before the post-season begins to the Cubs knew before anything happened which picks they would get for Davis and Arrieta.

    To me an even more important point, possibly, than getting an additional pick is, as John57 points out, the extra draft pool money that goes with it.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Finally announced. #78

    So Cubs have 24, 63, 77, 78 & 98 in the first 3 rounds

    Should be fun

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    5.5 can only become 15 if the Royals are planning on moving Moose at the TDL this year IMO.

  • Walker is getting a nickle from the Yankees to babysit 2B until Gleybor is ready. That was the only position where the Brewers were predicted to get less than one WAR. So the odds of the NL Central getting harder keep diminishing. Only Cobb and Holland remain from the top 50, and the only others projected above one WAR are Seth Smith, Brett Anderson !?!?, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
    Seventeen days until what matters happens between the white lines, not agents with cellphones.

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    In reply to charactercounts:

    Cobb will still likely get a good AAV, but Holand might be in trouble.

  • In reply to Brian Steiner:

    I think Holland waits until after the draft when there's no compensation pick attached. By that point some team will be desperate for a closer.

  • Actually surprised Jake got that much.

    I think he did well considering the unusual FA environment this off-season.
    I was thinking he would be lucky to get $15M per year.

  • Is there any way that Bryce Harper can expect to get a $300-$400M contract next off-season after what happened this year?

    I seriously doubt it now. I could see him getting 6yr/$150M or a 5yr/$150M, depending on the annual average. I just don't see him, or anyone else getting $40M per year now.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I think Machado gets the 5/$150MM deal you wrote above. I believe Harper gets something near 8/$280. If these guys produce 4-6 WAR seasons over the contract, then the teams will make out with good deals.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Part of the reason this offseason was so strange is because Harper and Machado (among other studs like Blackmon, Pollock, Donaldson) are available next year, and big players like the Dodgers and Yankees made an effort to cut down in preparation for them. I'd be really surprised if either Harper or Machado got less than $250M, and I'd probably take the over on $300M.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    Collusion. Pure and simple.

  • In reply to Brian Wilson:

    Hardly. When the penalties are in place and true mega-stars are available the following, the front offices did the smart thing. Why are the Yankees and Dodgers obligated to pay stupid deals to JD Martinez or Jake/Yu. Because Boras said so? I always have sided with the players, but I don't blame the owners for saying no to long-term player friendly deals.

    When Eric Hosmer gets $144MM there is no collusion.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    LOL. Right.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I'd say it's hard to know. I won't say for sure there isn't collusion, though as you say the Hosmer deal is odd for a collusion environment. Next year will be more telling. If everything goes back to normal, there's no collusion. If the guys who aren't named Machado or Harper struggle, the collusion argument gets a lot better. If Harper and Machado struggle, there may be a strike before the 2019 season. It's amusing this coming up because I was thinking of writing something on the unique salary environment of professional sports. TO THE BAT-WORD-PROCESSOR!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Holy board games, Batman! It's a monopoly!

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    The MLB market is far too small to correct itself naturally. For years we've talked about insane contracts ... the examples of which are too numerous to mention. And then, all of a sudden, FAs are signing for significantly less? Give me a break. With respect to Hosmer, we're talking about A. J. Preller. Enough said.

  • In reply to Brian Wilson:

    The analytics in the game are driving this. Why pay $10 MM for a 1 WAR player when you can bring up a minor league player at $500K for the same production.

    The Presidents and GM’s are smarter than ever. Hey are not going to handcuff themselves. The players simply are not good enough in this class to get mega deals. I’ll only agree with you if Harper, Machado, Kershaw, Keuchel st al don’t get significantly more than what was given this year. For me, the signs are right in front of us to see.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    That's my thought too. Teams are getting really good at evaluating talent and working out just how much that production is worth and, more importantly, how much will it cost to replace that talent.

    I think this off-season was kind of weird to begin with. It was almost like everyone was waiting for it to "start." "When Ohtani signs then there will be a flood." Followed by, "Did I say Ohtani? I meant Darvish." Followed by, "We can't expect these big guys to sign right away, they want to be courted more seriously."

    Maybe I am being to "strict" in how I define collusion. I came of age in baseball in the mid-80's when players were simply not offered ANY contracts and forced to go, hat-in-hand, to their previous team and take whatever they wanted to give. So, by that definition, the fact that so many players changed teams means there isn't collusion.

    I think part of what looks like collusion is the fact that, because teams are getting better and better at evaluating players they will likely come to similar conclusions. Which means that a player will get lots of contracts that look relatively similar. While I have seen some say this is "proof" that teams are coordinating their offers I think it has more to do with teams saying, "Look, this guy is worth about $18M/year. If he wants more years we will simply cut back on the AAV accordingly."

    We will see what happens next year. I think that the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees all taking themselves out of the running also depressed offers. If teams like the Twins didn't have to worry about going head-to-head with the Yankees they could afford to sign someone like Lynn. But next year will be telling. If Harper winds up signing for something like 6/$150M then I am going to be getting a little suspicious. However, if that is the best offer he can get I believe that some team is gong to break ranks and offer him 6/$175M or something like that and laugh all the way to the bank.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think it's a combination of more knowledgeable management and a market correction. I'd disagree that that the market is too small to correct itself. I believe the new CBA was poorly negotiated by Tony Clark and the players will have to live with the consequences, hopefully without a work stoppage.

    I think the overall economics of the game are changing. Once again Theo may have been in the forefront of declaring "we don't pay for past performance, but future production". It looks to me that this is the future financial track, and younger players will have to be more fairly compensated. I don't have an answer on how that happens, and I just hope it doesn't interfere with my fandom.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Not only are they all smarter than ever, they have all been aroudnd long enough now, and most importantly moved around to multiple orgs around the league.Ten years ago you had some teams invested heavily in analytics and other not. Now everyone is, and many of those departments have people with experience at multiple teams so the data and the things most teams look for are handled the exact same way.

    Almost every team is thinking the same way right now.

    Which means there is a new avenue opening up to take advantage of the situation...

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Another thing to keep in mind is that with the success of the Cubs and Astros, this approach of slowly building your team through the farm system and then pouncing on free agents later to put you over the top is not only popular with the front office, it is far more accepted by the fanbase in the past - this goes hand in hand with your comment on analytics. I think fans are far more more educated on the analytics and can now view things the same way the front office does. If the the front office knows the fan base won't totally desert them, they will be more willing to take a patient aproach. Look what's happening with the White Sox. They're notoriously tough on rebuilding but seem to be far more positive about this rebuild than any I can remember.

  • In reply to Brian Wilson:

    Any market can correct itself big or small, so your premise is off base.

    Something changed in baseball, FO's are being run by analytics and not by former AAA players but Ivy Leauge types.

    At the very same time the vast majority of long term high priced contracts have turned out horrible for teams.

    I have no idea if there is collusion or not, none of us know. It I tend to think not for now. Jake got the right AAV, just not the years and probably for good reason. The Hosmer deal was mentioned, and relievers are making more than ever. I do agree with Mike we need to see what happens next year, but for now it looks like FO's are switching priorities and the agents over sold their clients and over played their hands.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I'll take the under on 300 million

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    No way does Harper sign for less than $300 mil. No chance. He'll be going into his age 26 season and probably has several years of 7 plus WAR ahead of him. There will also be at least three teams all in on him with Chicago, Philadelphia and LA, probably one more. Machado may end up right at about $300 mil. I don't think this market correction is going to extend to the top FA, this year just didn't have any. Guys like Kershaw, Machado and Harper are going to get paid.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I am guessing Harper stays in Washington or goes to Philly. LA and the Cubs payroll are near the luxury limit and don't have room for a 30 to 40 million AAV contract to be added. IMO the new penalties are making the luxury limit more like a hard cap. This will make it much less likely for any team to want to have their payroll north of the limit even the yankees and dodgers who have money to burn.

  • In reply to John57:

    The Cubs will go over the tax limit next year. They've intimated as such. The penalties for exceeding the limit for a year or two aren't as harsh as staying over for several years. This is why you've seen the Yankees and Dodgers get creative to get under the limit this winter.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I have not read any where that the Cubs will go over the limit next year. Where have you seen or heard that?

  • In reply to John57:

    Well they haven't explicitly said they would exceed it, but Theo hinted that they'd be willing to a couple weeks ago:
    "One of our goals was to put the team together this year in a way that would maybe allow us to reset under the CBT threshold. Going forward, we think that made sense in the big picture for us."
    I believe they exceeded the cap in 2016. He was talking about "resetting" or getting back under it in 2017 (which they did), and staying under for 2018 (which they should). The penalties increase with each consecutive year the cap is exceeded. To me, he's hinting that they'll be willing to exceed the cap for 2019.
    There's also this, "...make sure we're in a position to be able to pounce if a certain great fit or just the right player happens to become available, or somebody wants to be in Chicago and something becomes too good to turn down."

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    "...make sure we're in a position to be able to pounce if a certain great fit or just the right player happens to become available, or somebody wants to be in Chicago and something becomes too good to turn down."

    I would not be surprised if the Cubs would pounce on a chance to get better if some deal becomes too good to turn down that would put them over the limit, but I would not make a blanket statement saying that they are going over the limit in 2019. Those kind of deals are not common.

  • In reply to John57:

    Those deals aren't common, but 26 year old stud free agents like Harper and Machado aren't common either. We can agree to disagree I guess. My guess is the Cubs will eat a big chunk of Heyward's deal in a trade and be very in on Harper or Machado.

  • In reply to TC154:

    If Harper has another 7+ WAR season that that would make 2.

  • Seems like an industry consensus that the cubs have 10m under the cap, but the cap is only really taken into account at the end of the year, right? If a player is making 10m a year but is traded exactly halfway through the season, does 5m go against the team cap?

    What about the cubs signing one of Holland/Cobb on a one year deal with some sort of in-season opt out clause that is triggered if he isn't traded by the trade deadline, or the draft?

    This way the player gets more money than they would have received by waiting out til after draft and the cubs are able to get something in return, barring any injury, as well as helping control where the player goes.

    It seems like there is a way to manipulate the available, unsigned talent.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    Cubs are done signing players. Lets see where they are near the trade deadline.

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    In reply to 2Toes:

    I don't see a player trying to sign a deal with an opt out DURING the first season. Most players are looking for "stability" when they start signing their first FA contracts. Having the team have an INCENTIVE to trade them might seem kind of odd.

    Honestly, I am intrigued by the idea of a player simply waiting until the season starts and seeing which team loses a good pitcher first. That might be a strategy worth following.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Having the opt-out gives the player the flexibility to decide their fate. If the player is having a great season, then the player could opt-out and then sign a more lucrative contract than what was available during the off-season. See moustakas, I bet he'd like to be able to opt-out by July 1st.

    We've seen the bidding wars at the trade deadline, imagine the bidding war for a player that just opted out and wouldn't cost any prospects.

    These kind of contracts are already used, albeit mostly for minor league contracts and the player being able to opt-out if not on the mlb roster by a certain date.

    As for the trade clause, that is a bit odd, but with, let's say a 20 team limited no trade clause, a player traded would most likely go to a contender.

    In order for a team to offer a contract that a player could opt-out of, there needs to be an incentive for the team, which is why the team needs to benefit from a trade.

    Let's say Cobb signs a 2 yr/$20m deal with the pirates, but if traded, he gets an opt-out after the first year. His contract includes a 25 team no trade clause, so he controls where he goes. Plus, Cobb gets an opt-out on July 21 if not traded, so the pirates are motivated to trade him before he opts-out, and would be rewarded with prospects. Kinda like teams intentionally tanking signing free agents in order to flip the player before the trade deadline.

    This will help the low payroll teams rebuild quicker, as opposed to the contending teams waiting out free agents and good players sitting out.

    I just think that there is a way to manipulate the available talent. Free agents that are unhappy with contract offers could become the new market inefficiency.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    Yes, the payroll is calculated at the end of the year for luxury-tax purposes, and any deal made in-season is pro-rated. If the Cubs trade for a bullpen arm in July making $10M, we're on the hook for whatever is left, around $3M.

    This offseason has been completely crazy and we've seen some very creative contracts, but your idea of in-season opt-outs is interesting. I don't see it happening, but I give you points for creativity.

  • I think it’s cool that the Phillies, Brewers, Giants, and Padres are spending some money and making an effort to win.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    The Twins are signing a bunch of guys too.

  • Players still value themselves off homeruns and ERA. Moustakas, Lynn, and Cobb all vastly overrated their own values.

  • In reply to Cubmadness:

    I'm sure Cobb would like to fire his agent. Alex wanted to take the Cubs offer but was advised not to take the offer by his agent!

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    How do you know Cobb wanted to take the Cubs offer?

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Or that his agent was the one advising against it for that matter?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't know if it was Cobb or his agent advising to turn down the 42 million/3 year Cubs offer but they have to be kicking themselves now. Since they rejected the Cubs offer and the market was slow, the Cubs realized that they could afford Darvish. It worked out well for the Cubs in the end.

    And this got me thinking. If there was collusion the Cubs would have known they could get Darvish for a reasonable amount and would never have made their offer to Cobb. IMO there is no proof of collusion and several arguments against it.

  • In reply to John57:

    I agree, there is no collusion. It’s a fabrication of agents who overestimated the market THIS year & are using it as an excuse to their clients

    FOs are accountable for the contracts they hand out & also are learning from theirs & others past mistakes. Plus the luxary tax. Those long term, high dollar contracts are why some teams had to tank at the end of them. Remember the days when we were counting the dollars coming off the books...?

    Their will always be that occasional head scratching high $/long term deal handed out by a desperate GM or an occasional team trying to buy championship, but gone are the constant bidding wars for every available FA. The Cubs built a core that didn’t need them to go after JDM, Hosmer, Cain, etc.. That’s what teams are trying do now as opposed to building thru FA.

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    Hello Myles! I enjoy your articles and am also a Chicago (born in Berwyn) transplant living in Seattle since 1998. I have been a Cubs fan since Ernie Banks and that great team of players in the late 60s-early 70s. If there is a group of fellow transplants in the area, please let me know. I would love to have some allies to watch games with on occasion in a social setting.

  • In reply to Jeff Berka:

    Welcome to Cubs Den, Jeff.

    Sorry, but I have to throw a jab at Myles and anti-sun rant. Maybe you could meet up with him on a cloudy day:

    "And I don't understand why I sleep all day,
    And I start to complain that there's no rain."

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Oh, come on, BP.

    "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone!"

    Yep. I went there.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Well done, Joel. I was taking Myles down a depressing rabbit hole because of his anti-sunshine slant, and you brought us back to the light of day. I obviously lean towards rock n' roll, but I love that tune by Johnny Nash. So smooth, and I've often put it on when I'm feeling stressed. Good call.

  • In reply to Jeff Berka:

    Hey there! That's a great idea. Best way to keep track of that stuff is to follow me on Twitter (@mphelps11). I have a few Cubs fan friends here and sometimes will head to a bar in Ballard for games. Thanks for reading and we'll be in touch.

  • "In doing this, they're able to remain relatively flexible going into next year where the free agent class contains some top tier players (BRYCE BRYCE BRYCE!!!!!!)."

    Hmmm, since Harper's MLB debut in 2012, he's amassed 27.7 fWAR, with exactly one season of 5 fWAR or more. During the same time period, Jason Heyward has amassed 23.9 fWAR with 3 seasons of 5 fWAR or more.

    Now I'm not saying, or even suggesting, that the current shadow of Heyward has anywhere near the upside of Harper, but at some point in time in order to be annointed as a superstar, you really do have to put together some superstar seasons. Harper will hit free agency at roughly the same age as Heyward did, and so far his actual body of work isn't really more impressive than J-Hey's was at the time. And we know how that's turned out so far.

    Caveat Emptor.

  • In reply to BrockWasOverrated:

    I agree with you. I have been saying that for a while now. I don't see the Cubs getting Harper. The gain is not worth the risk.

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