Teams spend US$1.4B in 1 day, then MLB locks out players
Before getting locked out, players loaded up Wednesday as big league teams unlocked their coffers for an unprecedented spending spree.
Major League Baseball clubs committed to a one-day record US$1.4 billion in salaries Wednesday, hours before the league locked out players following the 11:59 p.m. expiration of the sport's collective bargaining agreement.
Six nine-figure contracts were handed out, including two by the Texas Rangers -- shortstop Corey Seager got $325 million over 10 years and infielder Marcus Semien will make $175 million over seven years.
The Detroit Tigers got infielder Javier Baez for a $140 million, six-year deal, ace Max Scherzer was assured $130 million over three years from the New York Mets, and right-hander Kevin Gausman landed with the Toronto Blue Jays for $110 million over five years. Twins centre fielder Byron Buxton also finalized a $100 million, seven-year contract to remain with Minnesota.
It was the first time teams combined to spend over $1 billion in a single day.
"This is actually kind of fun," Scherzer said. "I'm a fan of the game, and to watch everybody sign right now, to actually see teams competing in this kind of timely fashion, it's been refreshing because we've seen freezes for the past several offseasons."
The 27 deals announced Wednesday totaled $1,423,250,000, part of roughly $2 billion in new contracts handed out since the end of the World Series ahead of the CBA expiration.
"This year was a situation where we received some calls early and had some interest in what we were asking for," said Semien, a free agent for the second straight year. "It became easier to narrow a decision down. What it came down to was an opportunity to build something."
The union and league are likely headed for a protracted labour dispute after the average major league salary fell on opening day in 2021 for the fourth consecutive season.
Players and teams alike may have feared the chaos of a limited free-agency window in the spring if the lockout goes that long. That spurred agents, general managers and owners to act before rosters froze.
"It was 50-50," Baez said. "We didn't know what was going to happen when the deadline comes. I was just making sure I wanted to be with one of the best teams."
Teams won't be able to communicate with their players during the shutdown.
"We were talking about that yesterday. It's funny how you sign it and the next day you're shut out," Seager said. "They've been upfront with me. I know what to expect from them. They know what to expect from me. They know I'm going to come prepared. They know I want to be prepared."
Plenty of big names remain on the board, though. Star shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Freddie Freeman, third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder Nick Castellanos are still free agents and might have to wait until spring or later to find a home.
Right-hander Nick Martinez was close to an agreement with the San Diego Padres but didn't get it completed before the owners locked out players, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no deal had been reached.
Martinez, who pitched in Japan the past four seasons, remains a free agent. So does right-hander Jordan Lyles, who had a deal with Baltimore but was unable to get his physical done in time.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander also appears to technically still be on the market despite agreeing to a $25 million, one-year deal with a conditional $25 million player option for a second year to return to Houston more than two weeks ago. The Astros never announced they had finalized his contract.
Based on estimates for remaining unsigned players, MLB projects offseason spending will be about $3 billion for a star-studded free agent class, roughly $700 million more than the previous high. Of the 188 free agents, 46 agreed to deals before the CBA expiration.
Among the other deals completed Wednesday:
- RHP Marcus Stroman to the Chicago Cubs, $71 million over three years.
- OF/INF Chris Taylor returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers, $60 million over four years.
- RHP Raisel Iglesias stayed with the Los Angeles Angels, $58 million over four years.
- RHP Jon Gray to Texas, $56 million over four years.
- OF Avisail Garcia to Miami, $53 million over four years.
- LHP Alex Wood to San Francisco, $25 million over two years.
- INF Eduardo Escobar to the New York Mets, $20 million over two years.
- INF/OF Leury Garcia to the Chicago White Sox, $16.5 million over three years.
- C Yan Gomes to the Chicago Cubs, $13 million over two years.
- RHP Yimi Garcia to Toronto, $11 million over two years.
- LHP James Paxton to Boston, $10 million over one year
- RHP Corey Knebel to Philadelphia, $10 million for one year.
- RHP Corey Kluber to Tampa Bay, $8 million for one year.
- RHP Andres Munoz with Seattle, $7.5 million for four years.
- RHP Luis Garcia with San Diego, $7 million for two years.
- C Roberto Perez to Pittsburgh, $5 million for one year.
- RHP Dylan Bundy to Minnesota, $5 million for one year.
- LHP Rich Hill to Boston, $5 million for one year.
- C Kevin Plawecki with Boston, $2.25 million for one year.
- OF Michael Hermosillo to the Chicago Cubs for one year at $600,000 in the majors and $180,000 in salary not disclosed.
- INF Johan Camargo to Philadelphia for $1.4 million for one year.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this story