Let’s start off with the good news. Nolan Arenado, the franchise third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, received the highest average annual value of any position player in baseball history, signing an eight-year, $255 million deal with an opt-out, coincidentally, three years down the line... just before the CBA expires.
That’s where the bad news comes in. Aaron Nola and Luis Severino signed similar extension deals that front-loaded money before the new CBA, and now Arenado plants some CBA insurance into his own deal, even with it being a massive one, just in case the market is even less favorable by that time.
That generally flies in the face of those who think—by golly, there just can’t be collusion or questionable labor practices when players get that much money. There’s no better argument against that than the best players not even wanting to test the waters.
Well, some would say that those aren’t the players that particularly matter vis-a-vis collusion, and on that agree. Here’s something that happened on the exact same day:
#Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano noticed something a bit unusual about his FA contract offers this past offseason: “They all came the same week, seven on them on the same day, and they were all were minor league deals, pretty much the same money."https://t.co/ux9Q11sZhj— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) February 26, 2019
Huh. It could be as simple as this—teams and owners are capping their expenditures, taking advantage of younger players to get them to take smaller deals for salary certainty, and the ones on the fringes get zilch. If you can see it through Occam’s Razor, then it’s even easier to see how consent among the writers is manufactured to justify the whole thing, and Arenado is a perfect example.
Just earlier this year, Yankees beat writer Andy Martino wrote “Could Nolan Arenado be Yankees’ real third base target?” which said:
“Meanwhile, people briefed on the Yankees thinking say that GM Brian Cashman -- who did not respond to a request for comment -- has internally discussed the possibility of trying to trade for Arenado either now or during the season... If the Yankees were to [then] move Andujar, they would likely want to talk extension with Arenado.”
Keep in mind that this was something the Yankees could have always done. If they traded Miguel Andujar and signed the third baseman who was already on the market, then they would get essentially the same outcome, and for—mind you—a lower AAV and tax hit than Arenado. Martino doubled down on this alternate reality theory again today:
Nolan Arenado, the Yankee that never was. Likely would have done early extension in NY if traded there— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 26, 2019
Largely the same could be said for the others who missed out on Machado. The White Sox were willing to give him $350 million non-guaranteed money, and the Phillies decided that the $300 million price tag did not fit and could very well pay more for Harper.
For all of them, the excuses could be largely the same: “Don’t worry, we’ll get the good player next time,” which was essentially the argument for a lot of teams... leading up to Machado and Harper becoming free agents. Now the explanation is to wait for the next crop, and that next crop may never come.
That’s because with early extensions becoming the norm, it would be laughable to think that all of the players we think will be available actually will be; Craig Edwards rightfully pointed out in January that Anthony Rizzo, Corey Kluber, Jose Quintana, and Andrelton Simmons all would have been free agents without early extensions. The next will be to say that Francisco Lindor or Anthony Rendon are the next target, until they inevitably sign their own extensions.
So, back to Occam’s Razor again. One could believe that these teams conveniently mentioned Arenado during the time of the negotiations with Machado because they actually preferred him, or because it was kayfabe for the fans at the time, knowing full well Arenado could very well not be available. I’ll let you be the judge of that one.