The strategy of waiting to accept a Free Agent contract

Most of these MLB free agents are already millionaires many times over. Those who invested their money properly and have good financial planning will not have to worry about putting food on their table — ever. Of course some free agents need the work, and others have the strategy of knowing they are in high demand and believe the economics of scarcity will drive up their price — based simply on supply and demand in a finite market of limited assets. These assets are so limited that their wealthy buyers have blurred lines of the underlying auction as if they are bidding on one of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings which would make Shohei Ohtani the Mona Lisa.

There is a strategy of waiting to accept a Free Agent contract due to an ordering that your demand goes up if a better player is no longer available. That is not always a sound strategy, but we see over and over that some agents want to wait — and sometimes that strategy backfires — but mostly it seems smart per the economic principles of scarcity. Prices go up based on demand in a free market economy, and baseball players in free agency are bought under that theory.

In 2014, Max Scherzer became a baseball free agent. He did not sign with the Washington Nationals until January 21, 2015. Bryce Harper did not sign until March 2, 2019 after Spring Training games were well under way. We can debate those two cases on whether demand had  evanesced. Both set records at the time. Scherzer still seemed to have teams that were pursuing him, while Harper might have only had the Phillies as his final suitor for a long-term deal. Who knows what happened behind closed doors. We never really know the full truth. Ohtani set records in AAV, even with the record-breaking deferrals in his deal of $700 million. He could buy a chain of private islands and create his own country.

This week, former Nats’ general manager Jim Bowden spoke on his radio show on MLB Network Radio on Sirius that he was offered a contract by the Orioles and turned it down. He said that for him it wasn’t all about the money. He wanted the right fit. Bowden said players need to pick the right fit. The pursuit of happiness should be the goal when you are already wealthy beyond belief.

Time is finite too. At some point, demand dries up harder than the ground when it is denied moisture. But we are not there yet. The news of Ohtani broke on Saturday, and it was not as if there was a flurry of signings after that. Here we are on 12/12 just spending more time talking about where the Washington Wizards will be playing basketball in 2027 and 2028. That tells you how frozen the baseball world really is.

The signing of Nick Senzel is still not official. Victor Robles‘ contract for the 2024 season is $2.65 million which came in just $50,000 below the MLBTR arb estimate of $2.7 million. The Nats have about $104 million committed to player salaries for the 2024 season, and only two long-term contracts: Keibert Ruiz and Stephen Strasburg. The team of course has players with lengthy team control — they just don’t have one of those prolific free agents with a long-term deal like Scherzer. Not yet anyway.

In the meantime, we wait for the Hot Stove to thaw the ice, and hope our Washington Nationals pleasantly surprise us with some wonderful news.

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