Another year, another baseball season is upon us.
The 2016 MLB offseason saw a lot of big moves made, and essentially every one of them revolved around two words: big spending. But it wasn’t one team that did all of the big spending (like the Yankees in the 1990’s). Multiple teams across both the American League and National League poured out a lot of money from their pocketbooks in order to acquire big name players, in preparation for the forthcoming season.
As of February 18th, however, four teams did not sign a single free agent that wasn’t on the same team in 2015: the Yankees, Reds, Brewers, or Phillies.
But when it came to big spenders, the top team was the Chicago Cubs, who spent $276,000,000 last year on free agents, two of them from the St. Louis Cardinals, their heated rival. One of those players was 37-year old pitcher John Lackey (two years, $32 million), and 26-year old outfielder Jason Heyward (eight years, $184 million). Their other big move was signing 34-year old second baseman Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million deal).
Not too far behind them was the Detroit Tigers, who spent $271,000,000 on free agents this year, as they signed two players to deals valuing at over $110 million. The first one is 28-year old outfielder Justin Upton (six years, $132,750,000). And the second one is top pitcher, 29-year old Jordan Zimmermann ($110,000,000).
Seven more Major League teams spent over $100 million this offseason on free agents, and one team came close. The seven who did are: the Giants, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Royals, Dodgers, and Mets, while the team who came close was the Cardinals, spending over $92 million.
There was a time when big spending mainly came from less than five teams (and the Yankees usually were one of them), but times have changed. Now, with the salary cap in place, as it has been for over 20 years, no one team can make all the big splashes in free agency. It has become an open season for all 30 teams.
However, the risk of overspending persists now more than ever as well. Miami (the Marlins) made this perfectly clear when signing power-hitting, yet injury-prone star Giancarlo Stanton to a staggering 13-year, $325 million contract (with an opt-out after six seasons). If Stanton were to opt-out, he’d still have made $218 million. While the contract money is spread out over the years, it still is a steep price for a player struggling to stay healthy.
It is surely not to be the last case of overspending that will happen (and it happens across all sports too, not just Major League Baseball). But in these days, it’s not the big spending that wins the titles… it’s the smart spending.