Mets Establish the Market

Something just occurred to me in regard to the signing of Yorvit Torrealba (which was officially posted on MLB.com today) — Yorvit is the first free-agent of the Hot Stove Season to sign with another team. All other free agents signed thus far had signed with their current / 2007 team. Torrealba is the first to take advantage of the open market.

So, you could say that the Mets have more or less established the value of this winter’s free agent market.

Maybe that’s too broad a stroke to paint, but there’s no doubt that this signing will directly or indirectly affect every other signing that follows. Because the Mets have established that a career backup catcher is worth three years and almost fifteen million dollars on the open market, all remaining free-agents are now readjusting the perception of their own individual value.

In other words, Kaz Matsui (for example) may have previously thought that he’d have a hard time getting a three year commitment from another team. However, seeing his teammate ride the momentum of the Rockies’ postseason excitement should affect Matsui’s self-evaluation. After all, he has more years as a starter (albeit at second base) than Torrealba, and many more proven offensive tools. So suddenly he’s worth at least 3/15 to someone looking for a starting second baseman. And if borderline starters such as Kaz and Yorvit are getting 3/15, that means legit starting players should be commanding much higher deals.

Last year, I *think* the first free agent to sign a “foreign” contract was Justin Speier with the Angels — it was a four-year $18M deal. There’s no doubt that deal established the value of middle relievers, because by the end of the month Chad Bradford signed his seemingly insane 3-year deal with the Orioles. Further, after a middle reliever’s value was established, the fringe fifth and “sixth” starters realized much higher values than anyone imagined — how else did it explain the bloated contracts signed by people such as Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, Jeff Suppan, Gil Meche, etc.?

So, along with quickly finding their starting catcher for 2008, the Mets have also set the bar for all free agent contracts going forward this winter. This could, actually, be a good thing for the deep-pocketed (but alligator-armed) Wilpons. Without an assortment of trading chips, the Mets’ most effective way to improve their ballclub likely will be through the free-agent market. And by signing Yorvit Torrealba to an overvalued contract, they may have indirectly affected the deals to be signed in the future by, for example, Carlos Silva, Mariano Rivera, and Livan Hernandez. The ceiling for those targets could be too high for teams that otherwise would have offered them contracts, which means the Mets could have less competition and a better chance of acquiring those arms.

Or am I overthinking this? Thoughts?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude November 16, 2007 at 4:47 pm
    I think you’re over thinking, to a degree. You’re right that Torrealba’s signing sets the tone for every free agent signing this offseason. However, if the Mets wanted to set the tone with an expensive signing, why not start out with a guy the team really needs, like Carlos Silva or Luis Castillo. You know, give Castillo 3 years at $25-mil contract, or Silva 4 years at $50-mil. That way, not only do we set an over-valued market, be we also acquired a player that we need more sorely, and will provide better production than Torrealba. Would Castillo think he can do better than $25-mil from Houston? Prob not. And then we’d have 2B locked up with a guy we know is going to be good for us, instead of such a question mark as Torrealba.

    I’ll say this about Yorvit: if I were GM, I wouldn’t have signed him…but if I were relegated to signing him, I certainly would be able to get him later in the offseason for less money once the market has already been established. And if I missed out, at least I knew I had a dozen other options, including Lo Duca, to fall back on.

  2. Micalpalyn November 16, 2007 at 5:08 pm
    I think the Mets set aside $7M for the position, and DID NOT WANT loduce back. For all the cliche’s and double speak that was it!!! Barring a low radar trade The mets were content to pick a defensive catcher. I think the player Mcphail insisted on is ALREADY part of a trade.

    Could it be Matt Garza for Carlos Gomez?

    Joe: The FA market was polluted several days ago. Signing a 37yr old catcher to a 4yr 52M deal? Then signing Jose Molina for 2yrs/4M- thats 15M for the catching position!! and the pitching /catching was not exactly a strong point in the bronx. Now Kaz Matsui could get 3yrs-15M from the Cubs giving the Roxx a solid compensation pick—SHEER INSANITY!!! at least Yormon can play the position.

    I am not gettinhg the Glavine in Atlanta thing, except he retires in Atlanta (ala Tom seaver).

  3. joe November 16, 2007 at 6:32 pm
    isuzu – i’m not suggesting that the Mets chose to manipulate the market by signing Yorvit to an overvalued contract. Rather, I’m thinking the fact they acted so quickly and expensively could inadvertently result in most other signings being overvalued.

    mic – yes it’s all insanity. I’d do Gomez-Garza but doubt it will come to fruition. A team about to lose Johan doesn’t trade Garza.

    The Glavine thing works like this: five years ago, it was about the money, so Tom came to NYC. Now that he has the (Wilpon’s) money, it’s no longer about the money, but about the happiness. Playing in his “home” of Atlanta is more important than $13M. From the Braves’ POV, they get a guy who a) will be a fine #4 starter and innings eater b) a fine upstanding citizen and representative of the franchise and c) a former hero welcomed home.

  4. Micalpalyn November 17, 2007 at 12:59 am
    If Glavine signs early do we net their 1st rnder?
  5. joe November 17, 2007 at 10:47 am
    Yes, we’ll get the Braves’ first pick. Nice.