ST. LOUIS – A growing trend, over the last decade, has been for teams to lock down their best young talent into long-term deals, whether it be the Giants signing Madison Bumgarner to a contract through 2017 with club options for 2018 and 2019, or the Rays signing Matt Moore and Chris Archer to what are perceived to be team-friendly deals.
These sorts of contracts have meant that fewer high-end players have gone into free agency, and some agents say there has been a nudge from the players' association to get more players into the open market; to not settle for deals that are perceived to have significant value to teams.
An elite free agent, like CC Sabathia in the fall of 2008, has maximum leverage and can drive the salary ceiling higher. Sabathia got $161 million over seven years -- a record-setting deal that set the tables for some of the deals that followed, like that of Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, who all agreed to deals before reaching free agency.
Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are heading into free agency this fall, along with James Shields, and they will all be paid well. But like changing weather conditions, the market setting for these free agents may not be as strong as it was for Sabathia.