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The Daily Belli watch: 32 days to the Cubs Spring Training opener

And yet, many top free agents remain unsigned.

Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

This helpful list was posted last Thursday, January 18. I share it with you now because it’s still (mostly) up to date:

Two free agents from the 1/18/24 list have signed since it was posted: Josh Hader (with the Astros) and Robert Stephenson (with the Angels). I know many here had hoped both might sign with the Cubs; personally, I didn’t want Hader at that price, and ... what are the Angels doing, signing Stephenson in a rebuild year?

Anyway, let’s look at those two FA lists.

A year ago at this time — and all three remained unsigned as of January 22, 2023 — the three remaining Top 50 MLB Trade Rumors free agents ranked 33rd (Jurickson Profar), 39th (Andrew Chafin) and 41st (Michael Wacha).

This year, 19 of MLBTR’s Top 50 free agents remain unsigned as of today, and they rank (the list above is in order): Second, fourth, sixth, seventh, 16th, 20th, 26th, 30th, 33rd, 34th, 38th, 39th, 40th, 41st, 45th, 46th, 47th, 49th and 50th.

A couple of notes: Wacha was on both lists. His good 2023 season moved him up from 41st to 24th. And, it is unlikely that Liam Hendriks (49th) will sign, as he’s had Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch this year.

Now, how many of the 19 have Scott Boras as their agent?

Six: Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman, J.D. Martinez and Rhys Hoskins. Those players rank second, fourth, sixth, seventh, 20th and 26th on the list... so, four of the top seven overall and the top four who remain unsigned. (For the record, neither Hader nor Stephenson has Boras as an agent.)

It seems clear that Boras is trying to win a staring contest with team executives and squeeze out as many dollars as he can for his clients. That’s his job, for sure, but at a certain point you’d think the players would want to start to ramp up with teams. We stand a little more than three weeks to pitcher/catcher report dates and about four weeks to full-squad report dates, and as the headline here notes, just a bit more than a month before Spring Training games begin.

Here are some further thoughts on Boras from AZ Phil at The Cub Reporter:

I would say the top six free agents still on the market are Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman, J. D. Martinez, and Rhys Hoskins, and they all have one thing in common. Scott Boras is their agent. Even the top two pitchers most often mentioned as possible trade candidates (Corbin Burnes and Dylan Cease) are Boras clients, and so they will almost certainly not sign a contract extension before hitting free-agency (Burnes post-2024 and Cease post-2025) unless the extension sets a new total $$$ value & AAV record for pitchers (and even then an extension would not be certain).

Not even considering Boras’s specific, peculiar, and somewhat unique characteristics as an agent, for one agent to be representing all six of the best available free agents gives that agent a tremendous advantage, because normally one agent does not know what another agent has discussed with a particular club. But Boras knows everything there is to know about all six of his players and the expressed needs, desires, and financial restrictions of all 30 clubs. No matter who signs who, Boras will know that he has taken the best deal he can possibly get for each of the six players, because he doesn’t have to worry about another agent cutting a deal or a club using him as a stalking horse.

Scott Boras is in complete control right now. He can essentially take as much time as he wishes (within reason) to make a decision. The only danger for him (and his clients) is if he waits too long and/or overplays his hand and one of his free-agents is left out in the cold.

AZ Phil’s conclusion is correct, I think, and also correct in noting the danger of waiting too long or overplaying his hand. So far, I think, the teams are also playing it the right way, trying to wait things out as long as possible.

However, it seems clear that the Cubs and Bellinger are a good fit for each other. Time to get it done.

Poll

One more time: When will Cody Bellinger sign with the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Today!
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    This week
    (56 votes)
  • 21%
    By the end of January
    (158 votes)
  • 37%
    February
    (275 votes)
  • 5%
    March
    (43 votes)
  • 26%
    He won’t — he’ll sign with a different team
    (192 votes)
731 votes total Vote Now