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JD Martinez

Driving my usual short evening commute from Trenton, the home of the Yankees’ Double-A farm team, to my home in Bucks County, Pa., a bastion of Phillies fans – when they are good – I heard an interesting report.

Casey Stern was on Happy Hour on MLB Radio (SiriusXM 89) and mentioned the Players Union, irate over the slow pace of free-agent signings this off-season, was taking issue with the pitch clock and “pace of game’’ procedures.

To me, one has nothing to do with the other. The 2018 free-agent class looks to me like Macys, while the 2019 class appears as Nordstrom.  At their best, guys like right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb and slugger J.D. Martinez are more like Macy’s – I’ll give them Nordstrom Rack – but not top of the heap.

This class is not one that screams “sign this guy and that’’ for five or six years. And some of these guys have an inflated opinion of their value.

I have no issue with any player making as much money as he can, but let’s look at what has transpired with Cobb and Martinez so far:

Cobb, who is 45-38 in six seasons with Tampa Bay, one almost totally interrupted by TJ, turned down a 3-year, $42 million contract from the Chicago Cubs. One would think that would be a great spot for a guy who allowed 22 home runs in 2017 while making $4.2 million.

Now, with Cobb wanting at least four years – and apparently not caring if he’s on a contender or not – he will have a tough time finding a deal. Whether or not he is worth $14 million annually is definitely a topic for debate.

Martinez has always been one of my favorite players. After three so-so seasons (2011-2013) in Houston, he emerged in Detroit before hitting 45 homers between the Tigers and Arizona in 2017. His 29 blasts in 62 games and 232 at-bats with the D-Backs were downright impressive.

The Boston Red Sox reportedly offered Martinez, also 30, a 5-year, $100 million contract, which would match the 3-year, $60 million the Phillies gave first baseman Carlos Santana per season.

Martinez, who made $11,750 million in 2017 was apparently taken aback by Boston’s offer of $20 million a season for five years and was looking for a $200 million pact. It’s not going to happen. He’ll likely sign with Boston for something like $22 million a year.

First baseman Eric Hosmer, who is 28, is looking for a deal of seven years or more. Royals teammate Mike Moustakas is getting few bites. Righties Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, perhaps the closest to Nordstrom in this class, are still looking around.

The biggest surprise is why a solid, mid-level pitcher like righty Lance Lynn, who made $7.5 million in St. Louis last season, has not signed. Could the 27 homers he allowed in 2017 be scaring people away?

Nor have players such as first baseman Logan Morrison, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain getting a lot of looks.

The reasons may be:

  • Teams like the Yankees and Dodgers are trying to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold. And both have exceptional farm systems.
  • Teams don’t want to give up precious draft picks.
  • Again, this class is just not that exciting compared to the 2019 edition.

One would think this logjam will ease over the next few weeks, but the Macys guys are being bypassed.

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About The Author

Have covered the Yankees and their system for over 20 years. I enjoy writing about MLB prospects and where they stand in a system. I concentrate on analyzing and commenting on prospects I have seen play and have talked to. Highlights of a 35-year newspaper career in the Pittsburgh area and with the Trenton Times include the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates We Are Family team and the Yankees’ successes while in Trenton. A dozen spring training trips have also been key, as that is where you meet and learn the players’ personalities. Am an 11-season MLB.com correspondent My work in Business Development with the EFK Group, a top New Jersey digital ad agency, has me quite comfortable in the digital era and appreciate the idea of total media, including video and podcasting.