‘Boom-or-Bust’ with the Biggest Deals from 2017’s MLB Free Agency


MLB Free Agency is the annual time for MLB to teams improve their rosters with their financial might. Some teams have it; some don’t. And some years you have surprise franchises that shell out the cash and the length in years. MLB contracts are known for going beyond five years when it comes to starts and franchise cornerstones.

Some work out; some don’t because most free agents are just at, or past 30 years of age. Here is a ‘Boom-or-Bust’ rating for some of the biggest contracts signed, with 0 being an absolute bust so far, 10 being a contract that couldn’t have worked out any better and a bargain or near-bargain:

Eric Hosmer, 8 years-$144 million

The first baseman is one of the many Scott Boras clients around. And Boras, like he’s known for, got his client a huge deal. The 28-year-old Hosmer played with the Kansas City Royals for the first seven years of his career, and quite honestly, his name carries more weight than his actual play.

He’s been a very solid-to-above-average player throughout his career, who happened to have the best season of his career in his contract year. Last season he hit .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs, a 4.1 WAR, a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove.

His first seven years, Hosmer hit .281/.340/.433 and averaged 18 homer-per-year and collected four Gold Gloves, although he’s never graded out as even a really good defender. Last year’s Gold Glove came at the hands of -7 Defensive Runs Saved, making a fair argument that the GG is more of a popularity contest.

Hosmer was merely an above-average first baseman (more specifically 11% better), so considering he was just 28 (on the younger side for MLB Free Agency), you couldn’t think of a better situation for him, because no way should his “breakout” turn into an 8-year $144 million deal, especially from the small market San Diego Padres.

He’s now hitting .254/.321/.381, and all the metrics say Eric Hosmer has been a below-average MLB player this season. For all those that say his actual value is the leadership and winning experience he brings, that is flawed thinking because you should never pay for that unless the guy can also play. And worst case, it should never get you a megadeal like this. And obviously, he’s not having much of an effect on the rest of the 48-72 Padres.

His .254 BABIP shows he’s been a bit unlucky, but that metric doesn’t matter because he’s been an absolute groundball machine who doesn’t hit the ball hard at all.


*Only reason he isn’t a 0/10 is that I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for playing in an entirely new situation so he may need a year to get acclimated. And he’s still only 28, but it’s been a waste of money the Padres could have spent on…

J.D. Martinez, 5 years-$110

From one Boras client to another. As disappointing Hosmer and his contract have been, Martinez has been just as good, if not better, and is making the deal look like a bargain. Martinez is hitting .333/.401/.669 with 37 HR (leads MLB), the third-best OPS+ at 182, and the fourth-best offensive WAR of 5.9. Your standard elite MLB hitter.

If not for being primarily a designated hitter and playing below-average defense, Martinez would seriously challenge for the AL MVP. The Padres should have spent their money on him.

J.D. didn’t get the 7-year-deal he wanted, and now you can tell why he’d be unhappy about that. He’s 30 years old, but hitters usually age better than pitchers, especially when the hitter ‘pops’ late. A lot of the late breakout guys are effective into their mid-30s, so Martinez should stay above-average (at worst) for the remainder of the deal. But he still has two or three ‘elite years’ after this, which would more than makeup for a decline towards the fourth or fifth season.


Yu Darvish, 6 years-$126

The Japanese star reportedly turned down a similar offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and boy is LA happy. The two things Darvish has been known for this season are his lousy pitching and injury problems. He hasn’t pitched since May 20 and even spent time on the DL before that.

In his 40 MLB innings as a Chicago Cub, Darvish has an ugly 4.90 ERA,  1.425 WHIP, while almost walking five batters-per-nine innings (over 11% of batters faced).

It’s a bad deal either way and at 31, it’s not going to get any easier. Darvish missed 2015 because of Tommy John, and after returning in 2016, ended his season shortly because of another injury.


Lorenzo Cain, 5 years-$80 million

Cain is one of the critical members of the Brewers’ revamped outfield. He had a pretty good 2017 but has been a bit better in 2018, hitting .291/.391/.419 with eight home runs and 21 stolen bases, in turn becoming one of the best leadoff hitters the MLB. The power isn’t great, but that’s not his calling card either. However, Cain’s hit 15 and 16 long ball in two different seasons before, so he has some pop, and will surpass 10 this season.

But, he’s paid for getting on-base, running the bases well, veteran leadership, and elite center field defense. He doesn’t shout “MVP candidate” but that because of his power numbers. He is one of the many candidates in a wide-open race. The 32-year-old leads all NL position players in WAR, has an NL-best 18 DRS, and is top-5 in all of the MLB in defensive WAR.

The only thing that hurts the grade is his age (32 years old), but so far it’s been an excellent deal for a win-now team.


Rockies Bullpen- Wade Davis, Brian Shaw, Jake McGee, 3 years-$106 million combined

Well, this indeed is not what the Rockies envisioned when they dished it out to build their own version of a super bullpen. They brought over relief ace Wade Davis after three excellent seasons with the Rays and Cubs.

Lefty Jake McGee struggled in his initial season with Colorado back in 2016 but had an excellent season-and-a-half in 2014-2015 with the Rays, and he was able to bounce back in 2017, and his team rewarded him. And Bryan Shaw was an integral, but underappreciated, part of the best bullpen in the MLB for years, in Cleveland.

And all of that has gone to shambles. Davis is the perfect example of how the ‘Save’ stat is to relievers what the W-L stat is to starters: entirely useless for judge off. He has an NL-leading 32 saves, but a 5.40 ERA in 48.1 innings with his continued control issues. Davis has gone from one of the best relievers to one of the worst.

McGee has gone back to struggling, posting a 6.53 ERA 47 appearances. Shaw missed a few weeks with an injury, but when he wasn’t hurt, he was busy getting teed up off of to a tune of a 6.31 ERA in 45.2 innings.

Maybe it’s pitching in Colorado that has affected them, but that should be of no excuse. The Rockies knew it’s tough to pitch there, and their visions of a super bullpen have become quite the 180 (29th-ranked 5.16 ERA).


Jake Arrieta 3 years $75

Like the other Boras client on this list, Arrieta didn’t get the 7-year deal he wanted, but it’s because of age, not ability. He turned 32 earlier in the year, and history has told us that long-term contracts for pitchers over 30 is the worst thing to do, and we are seeing that once again with Darvish this year.

Arrieta has thrown 132.1 innings and posted a 3.33 ERA while has served as an excellent complement to team ace Aaron Nola. His strikeouts are down, but he’s never been a strikeout guy. He’s more focused on inducing groundballs and soft contact. He has a career-best ground ball rate 0f 53.2% and has been pretty good at not being hit off too hard.

Three years looks to be the perfect amount for him. Like Max Scherzer, age has not affected him, although in his case, he has a relatively fresh arm for a 32-year-old because he started his career in the majors late, which explains a lot.

And the Phillies are a young team who needed a veteran presence and stability, and who better to help the young Aaron Nola than a fellow righty that is known for groundballs and soft contact and used that to win the 2015 NL Cy Young?


Featured Image via Flickr/DandreaPhotography

About Sunit Bhakta

Sports and food enthusiast. Love reading thriller and Comic books. Will talk almost any movie or tv show, especially Westworld!

Have a tip we should know? tips@rhd.news

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