Are Free Agent Demands Falling Back to Earth?

There are currently 15 players in the Bull League earning a salary of $20 million or more this season, but among those whose contracts expire at the end of this season, there are signs that at least some of the top paid players are willing to adjust their expectations when considering signing an extension, which could translate into cheaper free agents this coming offseason.

Most notable on the “pending free agents” list is Miami’s LF Francisco Erazo. The 16-time (yes, you read that right) All-Star, who recently recorded his 1000th run on June 22, is currently the third-highest player in the Bull League, earning $36 million this year. But rumors about the 39-year-old’s demands for an extension have him asking around $4 million.

While the Hall of Fame-bound Erazo has almost certainly delivered premium value to the teams he has played for over his 21 years in the Bull League, some pending FA’s like Minneapolis Ravens reliever Micah Jones are likely dropping their ask because of an adjustment in expectations around the league.

Jones will earn $25 million in his final contract year this season, a deal originally worth $135.8 million in total when he signed in prior to the 2013 season, when he first joined the Ravens. But for all that treasure, Jones – a start at the time – only amassed a 17-17 record with 2 saves, a 3.38 ERA and 6.4 WAR in five complete seasons. He has just one start this year, and despite having a wicked knuckle curve, control issues have made him a liability either to start or fill a bullpen role.

The 35-year-old Jones will reportedly seek just $1.7 million to continue playing into 2019. And even that may be a high ask, considering the numbers he’s put up lately.

Another big name looking to keep on trucking after this season is Rimouski’s Alan ‘Dangerous’ Isimo. The 39-yeaar-old third baseman continues to play the position like a 23-year-old, and won a Platinum Glove at the position as recently as 2016. Offensively, he is still stellar, and earned the Elimination Round MVP award last year, along with a Gold Crown at 3B. This season, Isimo, who will rake in $22.6 million in his final contract year, is projected to hit nearly 20 home runs. Again.

Isimo’s ask for a renewal is rumored to be in the vicinity of $6 million, a bargain for a veteran third baseman with a power swing.

However, not every pending FA is looking as economical as Erazo, Jones and Isimo.

MAKIN’ IT RAIN

Several pending free agents who are already earning fair coin intend to get paid after this year.

Denver’s 31-year-old second baseman Peyton May will look to upgrade his $8 million 2018 salary, and is said to be seeking at least $8.5 million. May is looking solid this year, and could repeat his 2016 numbers when he won a Gold Crown for his .321 average, .955 OPS, 19 homers and 73 RBIs.  He is on track to hit about that again this year after having an off year last season.

Another Denver player, right fielder John Webster, received an arbitration award of $1.2 million after the 2016 season with Detroit, and then became a free agent after that season. He then signed a minor league deal with Denver, who ultimately game him a shot after a solid performance in spring training. He’s getting $900K to play and has continued to impress, going a career-high .331 so far this year at the plate, and already hit a career-high number of home runs at 16, his previous high being 14 over 81 games in 2015.

Webster is now very much looking like a late blooming power hitter, with an incredible arm and some passable speed as a bonus. He is tied for the lead in AEL All-Star voting this year.  Webster’s people are rumored to be looking for $4.2 million for 2019.

The Arizona Cowboys are sellers this season, again, and not likely to spend on their aging veterans who want to stay. That said, Yardbrook Rooks, the 33-year-old righty who won two Bull Cups, first with Calgary in 2015 and then with Ohio the next year, has certainly had an impact in the Cowboys bullpen this year. Though he’s struggled due to a lack of solid defense with Arizona, Rooks has rung up batters at a 9.9 K/9 rate, and has been very stingy in allowing home runs. He is asking for a pay bump to $3.6 million.

Top 20 pending free agents by rumored contract demand.

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