Ben Clanin, 23 Sports

It’s finally back again, as of Monday, Feb. 12, all 30 Major League Baseball clubs have begun their full squad workouts down in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. As the players are starting to report, the MLB hot stove is FINALLY heating up after a very long and cold winter. Many of the top free agents this year, such as Yu Darvish, JD Martinez, and Eric Hosmer have waited until the very last minute to decide what squad they would be joining this year.

The latest development in the free agency market is the signing of JD Martinez to the Boston Red Sox. The contract is reportedly worth $110 million over the span of five years, with an opt out available to the slugger after the 2019 season. This definitely helps the Sox add that middle of the lineup bat that they so desperately needed after being last in the American League in home runs hit in 2017. Martinez hit 45 homers on his own last season, and will no doubt help to boost that lineup. This is especially a big signing for them after their rivals in New York went ahead and committed absolute highway robbery earlier in the offseason, and snagged the NL MVP, and league home run leader, Giancarlo Stanton for almost nothing from the Marlins. This makes the race for the AL East look a lot less lopsided than it did just a few days ago. This signing, however, is very front loaded for Martinez, he will be making $25 million in the first two years of his contract and then he has the opt out option I mentioned earlier after his second year of the contract which is very beneficial to him if the Yankees live up to the hype that they have accumulated this offseason. As of right now Martinez is projected to be the DH for the Red Sox and hit cleanup.

Another big contract that was signed just right when pitchers and catchers started reporting was Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs. Everyone knows Darvish and his struggles in last year’s World Series, but he was widely regarded as this off-season’s top free agent pitcher. The Cubs picked up Darvish on a six-year contract worth about $126 million but through incentives could raise up into the $150 million range. Darvish will fill in the hole that Jake Arrieta left upon his departure from the team this offseason. He is a solid addition to an already strong rotation that includes the like of Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood. Darvish threw over 186 innings last year with a 3.86 ERA in 31 games started.

The last, and quite frankly, most outrageous contract that was signed within a week of Spring Training starting up was first baseman Eric Hosmer to the San Diego Padres on an eight year $144 million deal with an opt out after five years. Eric Hosmer is a great player don’t get me wrong, he had a career year last year, batting .318, smacking 25 home runs, and driving in 94 runs last year for the Royals. But this is the largest contract in the history of the Padres organization, and San Diego is in the process of rebuilding. After throwing that amount of money at one player the Padre’s automatically took themselves out of the conversation for any other top free agent, and their young talent down in the farm system isn’t big league ready yet and it may be a couple more years before they are. So basically, the Padres are banking on that Eric Hosmer will be the same player he is now four to five years down the road. Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are not enough to put the Padres in the NL West conversation, especially with the emergence of the Colorado Rockies last year and the additions that the Giants have made. There is no doubt that Hosmer is going to bring a veteran presence to that clubhouse that they desperately need, but hitters fade fast in the MLB, and to shell out that kind of money and that many years for a player of Hosmer’s caliber is just too much.

There are still some fairly big dominos that have yet to fall, like Jake Arrieta, who is three years removed from a Cy Young award-winning season and the pitcher that led the Cubs to their first World Series win in over a century two years ago. There is Mike Moustakas who drilled 38 home runs only a year ago for Kansas City and is consistently playing above average defense over in the hot corner. There are two things that really boggle my mind about this year’s free agency situation, first of all the fact that it took some of the biggest names to wait until the week that pitchers and catchers started reporting to decide to sign their name on a contract, and second of all that there are still former All-Stars, Cy Young award winners, and Gold Glove winners that haven’t found a home yet. There is still a month before the season begins for these players to find homes, but the fact that they haven’t yet is just crazy.