After quite a while away, I published a new edition of the newsletter for subscribers overnight, about the frozen Hot Stove market, especially for the three starting pitchers who sit at the top of the free-agent heap. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s overly simplistic to say that the various suitors currently in the market for a major upgrade to their rotation—principally, the Cubs, Twins, Astros, Phillies, Cardinals, and Rangers, with other teams waiting on the periphery or focusing in on just one of the available options—see no difference between Yu Darvish, Arrieta, and Alex Cobb. Virtually the entire industry agrees that Darvish is the top pitcher in that trio, and that Arrieta fits somewhere between Darvish and Cobb, at least as a long-term investment. There seems to be an equally strong consensus on the notion that those three represent an inviolable top tier, with neither Lance Lynn nor Tyler Chatwood (the closest thing to a high-level starter to sign this winter) having the same footing.
Once that kind of stratification is sorted out, however, the marketplace enters a liminal phase. Price tags and offers are exchanged, balked at, rejiggered, and haggled over, and through that feeling-out process, someone discovers that they value one of the players on the market much more highly than the rest of the market does, or that they simply value one of those players more highly than the other players (relative to each player’s individual market price). When the first thing happens, a deal comes together quickly, because the player will jump at it. That’s what happened with the Cubs and Chatwood, back in December. When the second thing happens, a deal comes about more slowly, because the player will prefer to wait to see if one of those enthusiastic buyers emerges, and the team will be willing to wait at a certain price point, at least as long as they have alternatives.
The problem with the market for Darvish, Arrieta, and Cobb is that no team has demonstrated a clear preference for any of them over the others, so we’re not even in the latter form of movement toward a deal yet.
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