Spring Training is a time of renewed hope and optimism and this season will be no different on that front. Spring Training Games begin Friday, these games are the first chance to see how teams will shake out. To see if your club is “racing to the bottom” to quote Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. Or to see if your club plans to “Go For It” in 2018. This off-season has been the slowest in recent memory proven by the “Free Agent Spring Training Camp” that has been scheduled. Not since the strike shortened seasons of 1994 & 95 have we seen a free agent spring camp. But beyond that fact the market took until camp opened to drop two of the three biggest free agents, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer finally signed with there new ball clubs not just after pitchers and catchers had reported but also as the position players were scheduled to report.
The market developed in December after the two early bombshells dropped, when Shohei Ohtani “The Japanese Babe Ruth” chose the LA Angels of Anaheim as his new home. And the New York Yankees threw it back “Throw Back Thursday” style and made a move that should be accompanied by the “Darth Vader” playlist. The “Evil Empire Strikes Back” and the Yankees acquired the reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton for half pennies on the dollar. After the winter meetings we expected the market to form and players to be signed to big money long term deals, like we’ve grown accustomed to. However, that was not the case this off-season and thus speculation and rumors became the gospel news daily.
There are still many, many free agents remaining on the market. As games are now beginning teams will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on the market to see if players will take a discounted deal in order to have a job this summer. Now matter how the market shakes out from here on out this off-season has been unlike any other in the last decade plus.
Many interesting storylines will there be to follow this season. With the implementation of the new “Pace of Play Initiatives” baseball will be an intriguing drama all summer long. The six mound visit limit (that or may not have any real consequences for exceeding the allotted limit) or the impending “Pitch Clock” for the 2019 season if games don’t speed up this season. The way the free agent market has seemingly come to a screeching halt in the way that clubs would have spent an outrageous amount of money each and every season despite the growing belief that the investments were not the soundest investments. Now the market has seemingly corrected, much to the chagrin of players and agents alike, we are having to adjust to a different style of off-season.
The game of baseball at it’s core is still the same. There are still 9 innings, 9 fielders, 3 strikes to strike out and four balls thrown outside of the strike zone to walk. Though analytics have changed how we study and view the game and the way it’s played, the game has always been and will always be America’s Favorite Pastime. Spring Training Games begin Friday February 23rd and will carry all of “us” the baseball fanatics on for the next eight months.