The Urena Express: Free Agent Grades

Steven Urena
“Don’t you know we’re riding on the Urena Express…”

By Steven Urena

This season, Major League clubs paid $3.265 billion in free agency to 130 players. They shattered the old record of $2.4 billion in 2016. Cha-ching!!!!

As many of you know, I love Moneyball. When I see big money going to players I can’t help but think, how many of these contracts will be a complete waste of money? 

The eight players below signed for big time money within the past 10 years and were busts.

Albert Pujols (10 years, $250 million), Chris Davis (7 years, $161 million), David Price (7 years, $217 million), Prince Fielder (9 years, $214 million), Shin-Soo Choo (7 years, $130 million), Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million), Yoenis Cespedes (4 years, $110 million), Eric Hosmer (8 years, $144 million).

There’s still 20 other contracts the past 10 years that were below $100 million that were also horrible for the clubs. 

Is it really that hard to predict a player’s future success? I knew the Pujols, Davis, Price, Choo, Cespedes and Hosmers deals would not pan out. I was sold on Fielder and Cano. I thought Fielder would continue to hit over 30 home runs for, at least, the next 5 years. I thought Cano was a “can’t miss” guy. 

Recent contracts are still pending “bust status.” There’s Hurtnando Tatis Jr. ($340 million), Francisco Lindor ($341 million), Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million), Corey Seager ($325 million), Manny Machado ($300 million) and Wander Franco ($182 million). These big time names just got paid and the pressure is on. Some guys like Hurtnando and Lindor or Stanton already look like big time busts. 

Time will tell. I’m not calling anything quite yet. It’s never good when a guy making $25 million a year (Hurtnando) is hurt and sitting in the dugout. Bad news when your $341 million player (Lindor) hits .230 in his first season. Humiliating when your big horse (Stanton) that got 13 years and $325 million has played in 2 of his first 4 seasons.

Let’s roll through the latest free agency signings and give them grades.

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins, $105.3 million for 3 years.
Grade: A+
Had the lockout not occurred, I believe Correa would have signed a long term deal for over $300 million. He’s more of a sure thing than Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez and at this point, Hurtnando Tatis Jr. This was the best case scenario for Correa. I like the deal for both parties. The Twins will get Correa in his prime and Correa gets a good chunk of change for the next 3 years. 

After a last place finish, the Twins needed to make a splash. Correa may not make an immediate impact but he’s going to leave the team better than he found it. There are pieces in place, the Twins hope Correa can get the ball rolling.

Correa is the guy you want leading your squad. If not for the sign stealing scandal, Correa would have signed a lot sooner for more than any other shortstop. He hits, plays good defense and is October battle tested. I don’t think Correa will be in Minneapolis long enough to build a winner but he will continue to be one of the best shortstops in the game, if not the best shortstop.

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies, $182 million for 7 years.
Grade: C
The thin rocky mountain air must be getting to the front office in Colorado. I simply can’t wrap my head around this deal. What exactly is their plan? Is it a complete rebuild? Bring in FAs and spend some money? Bring up prospects? The Bryant deal makes zero sense.

The Rocks let Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu walk. Throw Bryant in at first base and you have arguably the best infield in the bigs. 

Bryant is going to love hitting in Colorado but losing every season will get old. I don’t think he sticks around for 7 years.

Trevor Story

Trevor Story, Boston Red Sox, $140 million for 6 years.
Grade: A+
Great move for Story and the Sox. Story gets the big bucks he wanted, he gets to play for one of the best clubs in the history of baseball, he’s got a short porch in left field at Fenway and he doesn’t have to come in and be the only star.

The position change is good for the Red Sox right now. Xander Bogaerts is still a great shortstop. If they feel that they need to move on from him at the end of the season, they have Story waiting. If it all works out, the Sox have one of the best middle infields in baseball.

I’m predicting a huge year for Story. His fantasy baseball value at second base is through the roof, for my baseball nerds out there.

Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers, $162 million for 6 years.
Grade: A+
Freeman is no spring chicken but make no mistake, the Dodgers are paying Freeman for what he can do now, not in 6 years. It’s the same story in LA year after year. World Series or bust. Freeman gives the Dodgers a fantastic shot to get back to the promised land. His bat in the Dodgers lineup makes them look like one of the best in baseball history. Freeman also has October success, which the Dodgers desperately need. I love the move. Especially with the universal DH.

I like Chris Taylor at second base and Max Muncy DH-ing. I see a lot of folks with Muncy at the two bag. CT3 is great defensively and Muncy, well, is okay. Either way, it’s a good problem for Roberts to have.

Will it be a Hollywood ending? The Dodger faithful really, really hope so!

Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies, $100 million for 5 years
Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies, $79 million for 4 years.
Grade: A

The Phillies are just about all in. Teams like the Phillies benefit from the expanded playoffs. “Tweener” teams (in between) are dangerous in October because they get hot at the right time.

Castellanos and Schwarber beefed up the Phillies lineup. A lineup that already has Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Didi Gregorious and Rhys Hopkins is dangerous. The Phillies will put up runs. The question is, can they stop them? Especially in October? Adding a good arm at the trade deadline will make this team scary. 

Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees, $32 million for 2 years.
Grade: A-
Rizzo could have made more money if he stayed with the Cubs. He’s hoping his next contract is another good one so he can sleep at night and not think about the money he passed up from the Chicago.

Guys like Rizzo were made for Yankee pinstripes. Pull lefty’s love short porches. The Yankees have the squad, now they just need to stay healthy. 

The AL East will be a dog fight. Don’t be surprised if the Yanks finish on top.

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros, $25 million for 1 year.
Grade: A
$25 million for a tryout season is not bad. I think Verlander knew there was not a long term deal out there for him. He’s long in the tooth and former Astros are not going to be fan favorites. 

He’s still got it. If he stays healthy he’s going to have a good year. The Astors need him atop the rotation with Lance McCullens. 

If Verlander has a solid year, which I think he will, he’ll go to the highest bidder that has a shot to win a ring. It’s a win/win for Verlander and the Stros this season.

Tangent Dreams & Temple City & The Company of The Ages are available at Amazon. (Clic pic)

Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 year extension (2025)
Grade: A
I know Dave “Robots” gets a lot of heat but I think he’s a great manager. The haters say he’s not “rah-rah” enough, makes horrible in-game decisions and is too deep into analytics.

Let’s start with rah-rah. Doc is not Tommy Lasorda and he doesn’t have to be. This is not the 1988 Dodgers. A low talent team with a lot of role players and guts. We’re the best team in baseball. We have superstars. If they need a rah-rah speech before games or Doc to hang motivational newspaper clippings in the locker room then we don’t deserve to be champs. In the 80’s, the manager could rip into guys. Not in 2020. Just because your 12U coach cussed you out does not mean Doc needs to cuss out grown men.

In-game decisions. Are they really that bad? Tommy Lasorda once said that the second guessers are in the stands because they need two chances to get it right. He’s not going to be right every time. I get that a manager needs to put guys in situations where they can be successful but at the end of the day, guys need to produce. When players are called upon, they need to do their job.

“Dave Robots” is Andrew Freidman’s puppet. The technology is there. Why not use it? The powers that be sit down and game plan. They share a set of beliefs and anyone that does not use the data is a dinosaur. I agree, sometimes you throw analytics out the window and go with your gut but over the course of a long season, analytics work. I’m glad we have a manager that is savvy in the way baseball should be played now-a-days.

Quick Hits
Trevor Bauer
I might offend some people out there but I really want to know what y’all are thinking. 

Do you want Trevor Bauer back? Yes or no? 

Below is Judge Gould-Saltman’s statement on the case.

Gould-Saltman’s focus on consent related only to whether the woman consented to having rough sex with Bauer, which she did. “If she set limits and he exceeded them, this case would’ve been clear,” the judge said. “But she set limits without considering all the consequences and [Bauer] did not exceed limits that the petitioner set … they were consequences of the acts which she did consent to, including being choked.”

Below is the MLB and MLBPA’s joint domestic violence policy.

Sexual assault refers to a range of behaviors, including a completed nonconsensual sex act, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, and/or nonconsensual sexual contact. Lack of consent is inferred when a person uses force, harassment, threat of force, threat of adverse personnel or disciplinary action, or other coercion, or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally incapable of consent.

What are your thoughts? Should Bauer’s suspension be lifted? 

Contact Steve Urena at:
Twitter/IG: @theurenaexpress

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