There are lots of rumors out there connecting big free agents with a variety of MLB teams. Which star is going to be the first player to ink a big deal?
With all due respect to Josh Donaldson, his decision to sign a one-year contract with the Braves really didn’t get the MLB free agent market moving. Only three players have the ability to really move the market if they make a decision. The question remains whether Manny Machado, Bryce Harper or Patrick Corbin will blink first.
The good news for fans of the Hot Stove is that one of these players does look relatively close to making a decision. Corbin will almost certainly be the guy to go off the board first. His decision to start his free agency trips to multiple destinations this week makes it obvious he wants to get all this over with.
That doesn’t mean a decision is imminent, but he’s further along in the process than either Harper or Machado. Part of that is due to his personal choice, but more of it has to do with positional scarcity. Corbin knows he can’t afford to keep teams waiting too long.
For example, the Yankees decision to trade for James Paxton has already affected his market. With players like Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner potentially on the trading block it’s easy to understand why Corbin wants to make a decision quickly. He doesn’t want to see an opportunity disappear before he has a chance to consider it.
Machado and Harper could also see a team make a move to fill their potential position, but they have more cache around the industry than Corbin. They are both seem as transformative superstars. Corbin is highly regarded, but he’s not a generational talent. That’s why he can’t afford to overplay his hand.
The more interesting question now is just how long Corbin can keep his suitors waiting. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if players like J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi started to make some visits in advance of the Winter Meetings too. Corbin is generally seen as the top starting pitcher on the market, but the difference between he and the next tier of player isn’t all that great. The fact that Corbin is also looking for a six or even seven-year contract could also cause some teams to move quickly to other targets.
The most likely conclusion is that Corbin will cast his lot with a new team well before the Winter Meetings begin. That’s the only way he can really insure he gets to make his choice before anyone else. Every moment he waits is a moment one of his free agency peers could strike a deal that could take an option away from him.