Just one year and one day ago, the wildest 24 hours in the history of baseball free rein unfolded. With the imminent lockout due to the league setting an artificial deadline for transactions, teams rushed to sign free agents, and in a 24-hour period from Nov. 28-29, they guaranteed nearly $1 billion.
There was no such urgency this offseason. None of the eight free agents predicted to receive the biggest deals have signed a contract. The biggest deal so far, a $102 million deal for New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz, was settled the day after the World Series, almost four weeks ago. Even the bottom of the market is not moving. It is expected that about 100 free agents who did not receive a qualifying offer will make deals in the big leagues. Seven signed.
This may change soon. The MLB Winter Meetings kick off Sunday in San Diego, and across the sport, executives and agents are anticipating a flurry of action to finally kick off the unrelenting winter frenzy. Aaron Judge could end his free will by agreeing to the deal. Starting excess pitching may decrease. Even a shortstop market with four nine-figure players and twice as many teams showing genuine interest could start to move, and the rest of the dominoes would fall quickly.
In fact, many people involved in free agents told Sportzshala that the dam began to break on Monday as both free agents and trade calls between teams began to rise. Whatever the true reason for the inactivity—slow front office play, the players’ firm commitment to high standards, or, more likely, a combination of both—all the flirting and posturing that has become the norm in baseball’s offseason eventually gives way to the truth. that teams need players, players need jobs, and those needs find common ground.
Meetings next week provide a fertile backdrop for these compromises. An annual sports gathering held for the first time since 2019, the winter meetings have neither deadlines nor imperatives. Some flew by without making a single significant transaction. But executives and agents agree that this incarnation is gearing up to toss a couple of Mentos into a bottle of soda, and that the real movement could start on the Friday or Saturday before meetings start and continue after they wrap up on Wednesday.