The national anthem at introductory press conferences, played before the actual event, is praised by the head of baseball operations for their ownership’s financial willingness to participate in (fill in the blank).
When, for example, Brian Cashman spoke to reporters at the winter meetings this month when he revealed that the Yankees had agreed to keep Aaron Judge, you’d think the Yankees general manager was talking about someone who had a hand in solving world hunger. than to bring back a player whose presence will be monetized like crazy by Hal Steinbrenner and his extended family during his career and beyond.
Cashman was a good soldier. Not just realizing who butters his bread (a product made from dough, by the way), but clearly trying to subliminally counter the growing perception that Steinbrenner is cheap and unselfish. Expect more of the same at the judge’s introductory press conference Wednesday morning.
By then, Cashman’s sponsor would have followed this scenario twice at Citi Field; on Monday with Kodai Senga, and what will surely be his prelude to Justin Verlander on Tuesday. Grandmaster Billy Eppler, as an introduction to his introduction to Senga, admitted: “I’ve led to a lot of them,” thanks couple Steve and Alex Cohen. “Oh, say, can you see the Coens’ luxury tax bill coming up…”? But that was the mood.
As this week’s press conferences highlight, New York is the financial capital of baseball. So far, no team has invested more in free agency than the Yankees’ $573.5 million, and no one has signed more free agents than the six the Mets have guaranteed for $401.67 million. In fact, there is a franchise that has spent in the middle. The Giants reached $443.5 million in free agent spending even without their No. 1 target, Judge, but the $350 million prized Correa, who Cohen actually made an eleventh-hour bid to land like he was ordering drinks after dinner. .
Wage disparities have always existed. There have always been moans about these inequalities. I’m not here to join the chorus of groans. I think the game is best served when teams are aggressive in every way they can to win and players are treated fairly in the market. I suspect well-run organizations like the Guardians and Rays will still be using their analytics models to play well above their payroll. I expect some of this offseason’s mega-contracts to go bad right away, and almost every one of them to go sour over time.
But in the here and now, this chasm is the story of the offseason. Before I left for Senga’s press conference, I noticed a story in The Athletic that the Pirates spent $17.375 million on four free agents and are now likely done shopping for the upcoming season. The Mets have six players who will individually earn more than $17.375 million in luxury tax credits in 2023 alone. It underscores that while free agent spending in the offseason is $3.4 billion and growing, there are two different leagues operating in MLB.
Clubs such as the Giants and Rangers were among the eight teams willing to pay nine-figure free agents so far this offseason in order to look to the upside. The suddenly budget-conscious Red Sox may be susceptible to a slump. But even within this Premier League, there’s Metz and all the other clubs. The Wilpons would claim the thanks at every press conference, but never thought to rise above the $300 million in salary and $400 million including tax penalties.
Senga feels like an extravagant side dish in Cohen’s offseason. His $15 million per year on a five-year, $75 million deal is the fourth-biggest free agent contract the Mets have signed this year, and he’s not one of the Mets making more in 2023 than all that Pirates extravagance. But he’s probably here because of Big Spending.
Follow Eppler in pursuit. He first became aware of Senga in 2013 as Cashman’s assistant GM. Eppler first saw the righty in 2014 as part of his annual scouting mission to Japan, immediately marking his major league stuff. Eppler became the Angels GM after the 2015 season, and from then until his first winter as Mets GM, he was busy asking Senga’s representatives to find out if the pitcher would be a free agent, knowing that the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan were the only was the team that. would not place a player to come to MLB.
However, Senga was a free agent this season, free of any control or compensation from Softbank. The Giants and Padres raced to the finish, and San Diego had Senga’s mentor, Yu Darvish. But Senga wanted something else. He is an information sponge, hungry to prove himself as elite here as in Japan. So Senga’s agent, Joel Wolff, learning and being challenged by Max Scherzer and Verlander, said: “Finally, the tipping point. … When they signed Verlander, [Senga] they started shooting in one direction.”
And the Mets had Scherzer and Verlander because Cohen was willing to make them the highest-paid players in major league history, and no small feat. Their combined $86.7 million in 2023 will likely be more than half a dozen or more MLB salaries. Even in a universe of haves and have-nots, the Great Ones are the haves. The kind of club that can pay for Scherzer and still have enough for Verlander, and then enough to see if Senga’s “ghost forkball” translates fully here to make him an ace as well.
Price will include perhaps the strongest pressure to win of any team in sports. The Yankees will likely be second.
That’s the business cost of going top in the Super League. In that world, the least Eppler can do is thank you (400) million.