There are no such whispers anymore. Last year’s off-season concluded with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper (another Boras client) signing deals worth at least $300 million — Machado with the San Diego Padres, Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies — and by the end of spring training, the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout had signed lucrative contract extensions.
Now, even mid-tier free agents are cashing in. The Toronto Blue Jays, despite little hope of contending, made a two-year, $24 million agreement here with starter Tanner Roark. Several pitchers with earned run averages over 4.90 last season reached lucrative one-year deals, including Rick Porcello ($10 million from the Mets), Blake Treinen ($10 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Kevin Gausman ($9 million from the San Francisco Giants).
Josh Lindblom, a former major league starter who has dominated for several seasons in South Korea, arrived here on Tuesday night and by Wednesday afternoon had reached a three-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for more than $9 million, with a chance to double it through incentives. The Brewers needed to replenish their roster, which rivals have picked apart on the market.
Milwaukee has lost four free agents to multiyear deals with other teams: catcher Yasmani Grandal (four years, $73 million with the Chicago White Sox); infielder Mike Moustakas (four years, $64 million with the Cincinnati Reds); and pitchers Drew Pomeranz (four years, $34 million with the San Diego Padres) and Jordan Lyles (two years, $16 million with the Texas Rangers). The deals for Grandal and Moustakas were the richest free agent contracts their new teams have ever given.
“It’s a more competitive environment; more teams are trying to win,” said Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, a former agent who publicly floated the idea of a spring training boycott two years ago because of the slow-moving market.
Besides Porcello, the 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner with the Boston Red Sox, the Mets reached a deal here with another right-handed starter, Michael Wacha. A former All-Star for the St. Louis Cardinals who ended last season with an elbow injury, Wacha got a $3 million guarantee with a chance to make $7 million more in incentives. His deal — like Porcello’s and many others reached here — is pending a physical.
“There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks, and I think that story has changed,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball.”