This past offseason, I tracked the accuracy of crowd-sourced free agent predictions against the actual contracts signed by the top 50 free agents. That process should have ended months ago. Instead, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel remained unsigned until early June, delaying my final report.
With Kimbrel and Keuchel finally inking deals, I can at long last publish my final report on the subject. The data shows that 2019 free agents received $1.38 million less in average annual value (AAV) and $6.32 million less in total contract dollars ($Total) than predicted. On the bright side, both of those numbers are improvements as compared to how badly free agents did in 2018 and 2017.
Nevertheless, I feel confident in saying that management is winning the free agent war. For one, 2019 crowd-sourced predictions were already depressed based on 2018 data, yet 2019 free agents still underperformed them. Also, 2019 was supposed to be a generational free agent class.
Multiple top spenders dipped under the luxury tax in 2018, ostensibly to be able to bid freely this year. That largely failed to materialize. For example, the Yankees and Dodgers both refused to go over the luxury cap in 2019.
Furthermore, 19 of the top 50 free agents took one-year deals, the secret weapon in management’s arsenal, in 2019. Those short pacts result in an annual oversaturation of the free agent market, lessening the bargaining power of all free agents. It all points to bad news for 2020 free agents and the long term labor peace in baseball.
That is all, please return to your enjoyment of the regular season.