MLB Hot Stove Explodes In Final Days of CBA

MLB's Hot Stove ignited on Sunday with several key free agents signing big time deals.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Marcus Semien #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a 2-run home run in the first inning during a MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 29, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

As the MLB CBA is set to expire in just a few days teams have been forced to almost operate as if we are in the final week of July and the Trade Deadline is looming. Still, I am not sure any of us expected so many dominoes to fall one after another on what started as a pretty unassuming Sunday afternoon.

There’s so much to unpack here, but what stands out the most to me across all of these moves is that small market teams are making themselves players. This is objectively great to see ahead of a CBA where payroll parity will be a major topic of discussion.

Buxton Stays Home

Pre-dating this wonderfully chaotic Sunday evening, the Rays locked up Wander Franco for the foreseeable future. Now, we see Byron Buxton inking a seven-year pact loaded with incentives to stay in the Twin Cities. I love this move because it allows Buxton to earn what he deserves if he is healthy, but also prevents him going to a team like the Dodgers or Yankees who could afford to take a chance on him even if he is not able to stay on the field.

Now I have no issue with the Dodgers or Yankees being great, but baseball is at its best when its most exciting stars are spread out a little bit. As much as I love Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff, they just won’t get fans to the game like the electrifying Buxton does.

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The deal makes sense for both sides. The oft-injured Buxton gets some financial assurance with $100 million guaranteed over the seven years. If Buxton is healthy, the deal would be an absolute steal for the Twins, but given the fact that he has only played over 100 games once in his career, this had to be an unprecedented contract structure for both sides to agree.

The Twins are providing a no trade clause on top of MVP incentives that you just don’t see. According to Mark Feinsand, here is the breakdown:

Finishing in the top-10 for MVP voting would earn Buxton $3 million at the very minimum. To put that in perspective, Byron Buxton posted a 4.2 fWAR in just 61 games last year. Willy Adames, Nolan Arenado, Jonathan India, Joey Gallo, and Kris Bryant all posted a lesser fWAR despite all playing at least 140 games. In fact, only 37 players in baseball had a higher fWAR over the entire 162-game season.

This is as much of a staying healthy incentive as an MVP incentive because the two clearly go hand-in-hand for Buxton. If he can stay on the field, it wouldn’t be outrageous to see Buxton earn another $30 million+ in incentives over the duration of this deal. If Buxton continues to struggle to stay on the field, the Twins will no doubt feel it financially, however it will not become a real albatross.

The Rangers Get Their Star

Another pleasant surprise was seeing the Texas Rangers prove all those reports right by spending big on Marcus Semien.

Is a seven-year, $175 million deal a bit much for a 31-year-old middle infielder?

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Absolutely, but you have to give to get an MVP finalist on board to join a 100-loss team. I’d assume that Semien had shorter deals with higher average annual values, however the number of years is typically the big hold up with teams and understandably so. The Rangers are trying to dig themselves out of a triple-digit loss hole at the moment and a couple extra years on the back-end is a price worth paying for GM Chris Young.

More years for less annual value ($25 million) also allows a Rangers team that still has its work cut out for itself personnel wise to make more moves. At just $25 million AAV, I’d expect the Rangers to still be players for the hometown kid Trevor Story. Typically, building through free agency is not the best of ideas, but the team has some good young pieces and intriguing prospects on the horizon to complement a couple big splashes.

Prior to the signing of Semien, the majority of Texas’ financial commitments for 2022 were the retained salaries of Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus (roughly $20 million). With Joey Gallo out of the picture, Semien produced nearly the same fWAR (6.6) than Adolis Garcia, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Nate Lowe combined (6.8). Bring Story into the equation and now you have a star middle infield that would rival any in baseball and would be the best in their division, assuming Carlos Correa takes off from Houston.

Marlins Spend Money

Could’ve went with a fish pun for the subheading, however the fact that the Marlins are spending money is just too important. Minutes after the Semien deal was reported, the Marlins made news of their own locking down corner outfielder Avisail Garcia. To be totally honest, I don’t love the deal, but this is a Marlins franchise that has not given out a contract of four years or more since they signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal in 2016.

It is important to note that the brutal Chen deal was given out by a Jeffrey Loria-owned Marlins team and this four-year, $53 million deal reported by Craig Mish was the first $50+ million deal by the Sherman/Jeter group. To this point, the new ownership had not shown much to make fans believe that they are any different than what they were used to under Loria, however this is a good start.

I say I don’t love the deal because Garcia has not put together consecutive above-average seasons if you consider WAR or wRC+. Still, the outfielder just enjoyed his best season since 2017 for the Milwaukee Brewers and did not have the dramatic home/road splits you would expect from a player with a bounce back year in a hitter-friendly environment.

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Garcia has seen his defense tail off in recent years, though he is still in the top 15% in sprint speed per Baseball Savant; inconsistent routes are the culprit and it will not get any easier for him in a cavernous loanDepot Park.

The Marlins also locked up Sandy Alcantara last week, agreeing to a five-year, $55 million extension to keep him in Miami. The 26-year-old Alcantara has blossomed into one of baseball’s best young arms and as I have said many times in this article, it is good when small market teams hold onto their talent.

Similar to the Rangers, the Marlins are far from done. Different from the Rangers, their big splash will be in the trade department by all indications. Buxton is now off the table, but could Cedric Mullins, Wilson Contreras or Ketel Marte be available?

The Marlins have a surplus of young pitching and a desperate need for offense even after the Garcia signing and I would be shocked to see them not trade from it.

Along with the moves we saw on Sunday, the New York Mets had a spending spree of their own on Friday night, with Starling Marte being their headlining move. All told, we have seen a league rampant with action at a time of the year where we usually never see any significant transactions.

There is still a few days left before the CBA expires on December 1st, so the stove is sure to remain red-hot until the power goes out entirely when the league shuts down for the foreseeable future to negotiate the new CBA.

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