The MLB Free Agent Market Has Broken Its Seal

The Toronto Blue Jays signed Robbie Ray and it starts to put clues on the record to help us understand the market. The agreement is 8 Million for 1 year and it shows us how both players and organizations might be thinking.

Here we are in November, we already know the Winter meetings will be virtual and anyone who has experienced the new Zoom world we live in understands the limitations it creates. Sure there are breakout rooms but sometimes you don’t want everyone to know you are meeting with someone in particular. It’s not as simple as grabbing a coffee together and having a quick intel meeting or maybe letting a nugget you picked up fly to a friend. It changes the dynamic of the entire process and while I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it productive, I also wouldn’t bet on it being the official, unofficial kick off to the hot stove they’ve been in the past.

Couple things, it’s a really slow market for starting pitching. You have Bauer at the top of the food chain, followed by Stroman then a full tier below Tanaka, Walker and if he doesn’t retire, Morton. Ray is closest to this category even if he did have a really sub par 2020.

Technically this is a retention move for Toronto as they traded for Ray at the deadline to get him and 8 million isn’t a ton of risk. They also have to be bracing a bit for losing Walker so in some ways they’re just making sure they don’t have to go all the way back to base camp before continuing the climb.

Craig and I have both been saying most of the off season we don’t see the Pirates being nearly as active moving players as many ‘rebuilders’ would like to see, specifically moving Joe Musgrove seems less likely as both Shelton and Cherington specifically referenced building on what Musgrove did toward the end of 2020 is what they look forward to most. That said, when you look at who’s out there on the market to be signed, man it’s got to be tempting.

If Robbie Ray is worth 8 million a season, I’ll be honest, Chris Archer might even get a 6 or 7 million offer for a year, he might even get it from Pittsburgh. On the other hand, I totally think this is an outlier and a GM under pressure to make sure he retains something for the prospects he moved trying to make the playoffs last season in acquiring Walker and Ray.

It still sets the market though, so when Bauer gets offered 20 million he can use Ray as a starting point and easily show how much more accomplished he is and the trickle down goes on from there.

If there is an area to be exploited on the trade market this year it is for starting pitchers and the Pirates may be able to sell one at above normal market value and they really should consider it. Again, should they prefer to hold all their cards, I can understand that, but if they can get more than any of us imagined for Kuhl or Musgrove at this stage in the rebuild I’m not sure I could pass it up.

It’s early and nobody serious bases an entire case on one piece of evidence. There will be more signings but as you watch the top options come off the board keep your eyes on who didn’t fill their need and consider the possibilities, because I assure you the Pirates are.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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