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?