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Itching week begins for many free agents

8 shopping days until Christmas.  If you don’t get signed this week, then you’re almost certainly not getting signed until sometime in January… at least.

Never mind all of this catching chatter… the Atlanta Braves still haven’t filled a right field hole and still haven’t signed any new relief pitching.  But the pressure to do so may be shifting toward the unsigned players, thanks to the calendar.

The regular season ended on October 28th, and while it still feels like it’s a bit early since we’re still here in 2018, that’s really no longer the case.

November is almost a ‘lost’ month for team-building, with myriad awards being handed out and teams conducting their own organizational meetings to figure out what their future plans are going to be.  A few deals are done, but these are the players and teams that mutually feel like they can’t afford to miss out on a lynchpin piece.

Baseball also holds business meetings for owners and general managers… this is the first time teams have a chance for face-to-face conversations that start the ball rolling.

December then brings us the Winter Meetings, but as we found last week, teams seem to have a docket of events that must be followed in order… if certain signings or trades are not done, then that holds up other transactions.

Things were so slow in Las Vegas, in fact, that Alex Anthopoulos headed off to Denver for a day and others started proposing a trade moratorium between roughly December 15 and March 15.

After this week, though, many baseball offices actually shut down for the period between Christmas and New Year’s days… which is about the only real ‘down time’ that they get over the entire year.

After that… now we have to start thinking about the Arbitration season – resolving player contracts, exchanging figures, and (perhaps) preparing for arb trials.  At that point as well, the trucks are being stocked with supplies to head for Florida and Arizona, since the second week of February comes up quickly.

So… the first 7 weeks of Baseball Winter are done.  There’s 1 more week of business, 1 week of holidays, and then… the scrambling begins as only about 4-5 weeks would remain until pitchers and catchers report.

 

It’s more than that

So put yourself in their shoes… an unsigned player of any rank.  Christmas is next week… you’re probably engaging with additional family and friends… and there’s just one question you get from everybody:

‘Hey – got any leads on where you’re playing next year?’

But you don’t know… your agent doesn’t know.  You have to resist the urge to call him every other day.  Soon you know you’re gonna hate hearing the question from your friends, family… heck even people at the grocery store that recognize you.

Even more, you don’t know what your living arrangements are going to be… you don’t know whether you’re going to Florida or Arizona in February and especially don’t know about a major league city thereafter.  At least you have some time to work that out in between workouts in early March.

You’ve probably already boxed up all of your stuff… or maybe never unboxed it from the last time.  You want some clarity… and the sooner, the better.

If you use the MLBTR’s free agent tracker, you’ll see 176 names of unsigned players this morning.  They are in baseball limbo.

Some may retire.  Many will sign minor league deals with Spring invites attached.  Many are All-Stars.  All of them are getting the ‘itch’ that comes with another week being removed from the calendar.

Heck, if I’m Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or Craig Kimbrel… these guys know they will be among the last to sign and that’s really going to get them antsy before all is settled for them.

 

The First Step?

Catcher Wilson Ramos reached an agreement to sign with the Mets on Sunday.  That’s a good thing for them (darn it) and for Ramos.  It’s also interesting that there’s a lot of good catching talent migrating to the NL East this Winter.

Ramos might also be the domino that breaks loose Grandal, Lucroy, Maldonado, and perhaps also unlocks Realmuto’s ultimate destination.

We should therefore see a lot of player movement this week.  Teams need to see some resolution to their plans, but the players probably need it more so.

Next: The Beat Writers Battle of Rumors

That’s why the ‘itch’ starts changing things.

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