This season’s market for baseball free agents was unusually insipid. There was no bumper crop of marquee players available, and those who were hardly experienced a feeding frenzy from teams looking to shore up their rosters in the offseason.
Trades seemed to be the preferred method of choice with baseball executives last fall and several clubs got better through deals with other squads. The biggest trade was the New York Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton for next to nothing from the Miami Marlins.
It’s hard to predict how a free agent is going to perform for his new team, but at the one-third point of the season some below are starting to look like they were smart decisions, and others appear that general managers might regret making a high-priced offer.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
When the Angels won the bidding war for the Japanese two-way player, they thought they had found their savior. Then came an underwhelming Spring Training, where on the mound he compiled a 27.00 ERA, allowing nine hits and nine runs in just over two innings. At the plate he was 4-32 with three walks and 10 strikeouts.
Flash forward to the season and suddenly Ohtani was everything the Angels thought he would be. At the plate through 30 games he has a .291 average, six home runs and 20 RBI. In eight games on the mound, the 23 year old is 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 45 innings.
Jake Arrieta, Philadelphia Phillies
It seemed like no one wanted the right-handed pitcher, and he languished in limbo until the Phillies picked him up after Spring Training started. Chicago, his former team, gave up on the 32 year old.
That now looks like a big mistake. In 10 games he is 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA. With 55 games into the season the Phillies, who were expected to finish last in the National League East, are in third and have a better record than the Cubs, who were one of the top choices to win the World Series.
Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs
This is the pitcher they chose over Arrieta, but apparently no one with the Cubs watched last year’s World Series. The righty was awful in the two games he started in the Fall Classic. Houston shellacked him and that trend is continuing this year.
The player the Cubs paid $126 million for is currently on the disabled list for the second time. When he does pitch he is getting routinely booed. In eight games, he is 1-3 with an ERA of 4.95.
It may be affecting the pitcher’s psyche as reports are leaking out that he fears Cubs fans hate him.
Carlos Santana, Philadelphia Phillies
Though Santana is pleading with fans to have patience, the notorious hostile Philadelphia fans are having none of it. While they have embraced Arrieta, they have equally spurned Santana.
With good reason so far. He is hitting .213 at the plate with nine homers. That’s not exactly the numbers a player who signed the fourth richest free agent deal in 2018 should be putting up.
Santana said it will change, saying he typically starts slow.
“I know I’ve struggled this month, but this is not new for me,” Santana said. “My numbers, I finish strong. Check back in September.”