By: Blake Tarrants, KCOU Sports
The baseball hot stove has certainly not taken long to heat, as most of the top free agent hitters have already found homes as November concludes and December begins. The most notable spenders so far have certainly been the Red Sox, as they landed free agent 3B Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to multi-year deals worth around $100 million. This enormous amount of payroll flexibility allowed Boston to practically buy the left side of their infield, with Ramirez reportedly working on refining his outfield skills as well to give them some depth in left, should the Sox decide to part ways with one of their many young talented outfielders to bulk up their farm system.
There has been no shortage of bidding for big bats elsewhere, however. The Mariners have made one of the riskier moves, signing inconsistent, but certainly able slugger Nelson Cruz to a four-year deal. Cruz’s career has been up and down, as he hit the cover off of the ball in Texas from 2009-2011, but the next two seasons were riddled with injuries and his suspension during the Biogenesis scandal. This was what allowed the Orioles to sign him to just an $8 million deal before the 2014 season began, and he proceeded to have a career year, slugging 40 homers, including what proved to be the game and series winner in the ALDS against the Tigers.
Other notable offensive acquisitions around the league have included the Mets signing of veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer, Toronto’s $82 million deal with catcher Russell Martin, and the Brave’s trade of fan-favorite Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, and signing of fellow right-fielder Nick Markakis. Of course, nobody could forget the largest signing of all, as the Marlins and homegrown slugger Giancarlo Stanton reached an agreement on a megadeal that spans 13 years and is worth $325 million, which is both the longest and largest total contract in MLB history. Despite all of this, there are still several big-name hitters who will get large contracts on the market, but that number is dropping fast. Pitching, however, is a different story. No notable pitching free agents have yet found a home, even though the pitching market was clearly much deeper than the one for hitters this off-season. Why would that be?
The main reason that the contests to land one of the many talented arms have not begun yet is simply because nobody has yet made the first move. Until the most sought after player, left-handed ace John Lester finds a home, the market for the pitchers right behind him in the race, such as James Shields and Max Scherzer, will be a complete mystery. Teams are always hesitant to sign a pitcher to any more than is absolutely necessary, because such megadeals for starters have backfired time and again in past years.
Lester is reportedly nearing a deal, but with four teams still neck-and-neck in the race to sign the 30-year-old lefty, it is still very much a mystery where he may choose to take his talents. Until he does, do not expect to see much, if any action, on any of the other starting pitchers on the hot stove.