Four weeks from today, Friday, February 23, the Cubs — or some players wearing Cubs uniforms — will take the field at Sloan Park against the White Sox for their 2024 Spring Training opener.
We do, of course, hope that Cody Bellinger is one of those Cubs players, even if he only plays a couple of innings and gets two plate appearances. That’d be normal for a starting player in the first spring game.
Today, I want to share with you parts of a long ESPN article (subscription required) by Jeff Passan about this offseason’s free agency. You can tell Bellinger is important because his photo is the one selected to be used for the article:
Passan begins the article by comparing the 2018 offseason to what we’re going through now:
Back then, four of the best available players — Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas — were clients of agent Scott Boras. This year, the four best remaining players — Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery and Matt Chapman — are repped by Boras. Shohei Ohtani almost certainly decelerated the market until he ended his historic free agency on Dec. 9 — just as some executives suggested he did in 2017-18 when he came to MLB from Japan.
Years later, players would point to the 2018 winter as a galvanizing moment for their eventual collective-bargaining fight that threatened to torpedo the 2022 season. The reason players aren’t up in arms this time around is because, despite the pace, the money spent so far generally reflects a healthy market.
Interesting comparison, and several of those players didn’t sign until very late in the offseason. Arrieta, in fact, didn’t sign with the Phillies until March, after games had begun. Passan says it looks like that might be the case again this year:
Multiple executives interested in signing Boras’ top clients agreed that none of the four is likely to sign before the calendar turns to February — and said it wouldn’t surprise them if some remained unsigned when spring camps open.
Some people say things like this call for a free-agent signing period, as exists in other pro sports. But those other sports all have salary caps, which makes for a finite amount of money to be spent by teams. That means waiting wouldn’t really move the needle much on contracts in those sports, while MLB owners, without a hard salary cap, figure they can wait players out. Having a free-agent signing deadline in MLB would give the owners much larger leverage, and that’s something players would never agree to. Nor should they. The only way a salary cap in MLB would even be considered by players is if it would be accompanied by a salary floor, so that teams would have to have payrolls over a certain amount. In 2023, per Spotrac, eight MLB teams had payrolls of under $100 million, and the league average was $165 million. The floor would probably have to be near the average. Owners aren’t going to go for that, you can be certain.
Anyway, I found this part of Passan’s article the most interesting. After going through various permutations of past and present player signings, Passan writes of the “Boras Four” (as he calls them):
if Snell can snag $200 million, Bellinger $175 million, Montgomery $150 million and Chapman $125 million
If Cody Bellinger could be had for $175 million, the Cubs should have done it yesterday. Six years, $175 million, maybe an opt out after two years?
Today would be a very good day for the Cubs to re-sign Cody Bellinger.
Get it done, Jed.
Once more, with feeling! When will Cody Bellinger re-sign with the Cubs?
This poll is closed
By Wednesday (the end of January)
He won’t — he’ll sign with a different team