LAS VEGAS (AP) — In the hallways and boardrooms of Resorts World, baseball general managers are beginning to weigh bigger bets than those placed on the tables and machines of the casino below.
A free-agent market that will be defined by Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts began to take shape when the New York Mets struck a reliever-record, five-year, $102 million contract with closer Edwin Díaz subject to a successful physical.
With a five-year labor contract in place after the 99-day lockout ended in March, Major League Baseball’s economic rules are in place through the 2026 season, perhaps leading to a more normal rhythm of the free agent market.
“He’s going to come back pretty strong,” predicted player agent Alan Nero, executive director of the Octagon’s baseball division. “I think you’re going to see things go back to normal. I certainly hope so.”
GMs meet with each other and with agents during the annual session, which began just two days after Houston’s World Series win and ends Thursday. They reconvene for the winter meetings in San Diego Dec. 5-7 — last year’s meetings in Orlando, Fla., were canceled due to the lockout.
While some trades come together quickly, most develop from lengthy discussions. Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian on Monday ruled out two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who agreed to a one-year, $30 million contract last month and is eligible for free agency after next season.
Díaz’s deal was confirmed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been finalized. That will break the previous record for a reliever, set when Aroldis Chapman returned to the New York Yankees after the 2016 season on a five-year, $86 million contract. Chapman opted out of the final two years to a three-year, $48 million contract that brought his earnings to $104 million over six seasons.
Under owner Steve Cohen, who bought the Mets after the 2020 season, New York added Max Scherzer, Starling Marte and Mark Canha last offseason and became baseball’s biggest spender for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million from August. 31, with final numbers including bonuses yet to be compiled.
Star pitcher Jacob deGrom gave up a $30.5 million salary for next season when he decided to become a free agent on Monday and will seek more after Scherzer agreed to a three-year, $130 million contract that included the highest average salary in baseball history.
Judge rejected the Yankees’ $213.5 million offer from 2023 to 2029, then set an American League record with 62 homers and will receive one of the largest contracts in baseball.
The highest is Mike Trout’s 12-year contract with the Angels at $426.5 million through 2030, followed by Mookie Betts with the Dodgers ($365 million over 12 years through 2023), Francisco Lindor with the Mets ($341 million over 10 years until 2031), Fernando Tatis Jr. with San Diego ($340 million over 14 years through 2034) and Bryce Harper with Philadelphia ($330 million over 13 years through 2031).
Free agent talks slowed significantly after the 2018 season, when Harper and Manny Machado didn’t reach deals until spring training began.
The pace was slightly faster after the 2019 season, when more than 25% of free agents were signed by the holiday, and then slowed again after 2020, when only 15 reached deals before January.
Last year, there was a huge rush to finalize deals before the Dec. 2 lockout, with six-figure deals for Scherzer, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez and Kevin Gausman among the $1.4 billion spent on the final day.
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