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Mind Blown - MLB Owners Have Already Committed More Money This Free Agency Than What The Entire American League Spent On Payroll In 2022

Is that title as crazy as I think it is? I could do some research on free agency as a percentage of total payroll. Adjusting for inflation I'm willing to bet this is one of the highest years all time as teams shy away from high AAV for longer terms. We'll talk about that below but for now just a brief hand-up acknowledgement about today's show.

Can you blame me for making the first 20 minutes all about Dansby Swanson? I've done everything in my power to avoid the early stigma that it's just Cubs talk with me and Jake. To some of you, no avail. But generally speaking, we've maintained professional objectivity. I explain it at the top of the show how as a baseball fan - I absolutely LOVE the Correa contract. Juice those fuckin payrolls. As a Cubs fan - get 13 years out of my face for chrissakes. That's like a decade worth of excuses for Tom/Crane to not increase Jed's budget. 

And now we're getting real local. 

Good. The Cubs deserve the attention off the top after landing Dansby for $177M over 7 years. It's a fantastic number of years. Borderline ideal if you consider the other three SS's averaged 11.7 on their new deals. His AAV checks in lowest of the group at $25.3 followed by Xander $25.5, Carlos $26.9 and Trea $27.3. Not by much but it's the lowest. 

If you only look at AAV then you can scold the Cubs for overpaying, no doubt. I'm crazy but not enough to argue Dansby and Trea Turner are equal baseball players as reflected by payroll impact. Don't do that to me. 

The broader point is that YEARS are driving deals more than ever. Owners are confident in the future of the game to commit preposterous contracts literally one year removed from crying poor and bitching about players. Shitty situation in the short term of the CBA lockout but now literally everyone is getting paid.* Injured pitchers are getting $10M. Journeymen relievers signing for multiple years. ERA's in the high 3's mean at least $60M. Come spring training, somewhere close to $2.5B in new contracts will be added this offseason. And just for context, the average payroll in 2022 was $150M. Owners are terrible, sure. But they'll end up committing more than an American League worth of new payroll this winter. 

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Just wait until Machado and Shohei next year  

For now I just want to draw the distinction that money is clearly becoming a non factor for a handful of MLB teams. It's more a matter of years and the balance of developing homegrown impact players amidst all this spending. The 2017 Astros vs. the 2016 Cubs trajectory. Easy to say which one you'd prefer but significantly more difficult to actually do it. And with the way free agency is trending, it's only getting harder. 

We've come this far. Let's close the argument strong.  

If the focus becomes YEARS and not AAV then there's huge impact on the next wave of players. It's going to impact roster turnover and playing time and restrict the paths within each organization. The bedrock of sustaining success in MLB is pumping your own guys in the lineup so you can afford the superstars when it's time to pay them. But then you run into massive development issues because there's no consistent opportunity for the young guys to come up. It's no longer a cycle but now some fucked up shuffle of what prospects get traded vs. who gets a chance and then just an all out gamble. The more LONG TERM contracts lurking, the more opportunity for teams that are able to maintain the cycle of success. 

More on Starting 9 today. More on a lot of stuff like Rodon's mustache projections and Michael Brantley's strong case for a legendary rebound. Syndergaard is on the Dodgers with JD Martinez while Adam Frazier pushes the Orioles to 28th in payroll. Amazing stuff across the league. Follow along here: 

*Except first basemen. Poor Anthony Rizzo.