AP Photo/John RaouxScott Boras has a history of going deep into the winter to get top dollar for his free agents.

Everyone is getting nervous. By everyone, I mean those with a vested interested in the baseball free-agent market. Agents. Teams. Players. Fans. And, yes, writers, too. After all, the bugle sounds for spring training in less than a month, and we're not accustomed to this much late hot stove drama.

Day by day, we wait for the dam to break. Meanwhile, the theories for the free-agent freeze-out abound and somehow grow more ominous by the day. Yet, theory is theory: We don't really know what's at the root of all this. We also don't know if this is a one-year blip or the new reality for baseball free agency.

With so much uncertainty in the air, let's try to veer the conversation toward objective territory. Here's a question that we can at least approach with a little data analysis: Does a slow market favor the teams or the players/agents?

It's a simple question. Answering it is not simple. Here's what I did:

-- I compiled a database of free-agent signings that encompass the wild-card era (since 1994), based on data from prosportstransactions.com. I picked that data source because most of the signings listed there include the reported length of each contract, though there are gaps in the information. I plugged as many of those gaps as I could for multiyear deals. Each transaction is dated and flagged for contract length.

-- Not included: Option years, contract extensions and international signings. The aim is to capture deals signed during the winter free-agent process, so in-season signings also were omitted. I ended up with 2,130 signings in the database. Each signing that occurred in October, November or December was flagged as "early," while signings dated in January, February and March were marked as "late."

-- The signings database was merged with yearly WAR data from FanGraphs.com and salary data from the Lahman Baseball Database


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NEW YORK -- Left-hander Wade LeBlanc has agreed to a minor league contract with the New York Yankees and will report to major league spring training.

The 33-year-old LeBlanc was 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 50 relief appearances last year for Pittsburgh, which declined his $1.25 million option for 2018.

LeBlanc is 30-35 in nine seasons with a 4.40 ERA in 79 starts and 97 relief appearances for San Diego (2008-11), Miami (2012-13), Houston (2013), the Yankees (2014), Los Angeles Angels (2014), Seattle (2016) and Pittsburgh.

He was claimed by the Yankees off waivers from Angels and pitched one game, on June 4, 2014, against Oakland. He allowed two singles, a one-out intentional walk, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning. LeBlanc was designated for assignment a week later.

LeBlanc would get a $1 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster.


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Rob Carr/Getty ImagesBoth Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in pinstripes -- before free agency? We dust off our crystal ball for our annual glimpse into one extreme, though not completely implausible, Bronx Bombers season.

We dust off our crystal ball for our annual glimpse into one extreme -- though not completely implausible -- season in the Bronx.
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From top-flight starting rotations, bullpens and defenses to lineups that won't quit, there are only a handful of teams in it to win it in 2018.

Didi GregoriusGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDidi Gregorius reached a new deal as the Yankees moved to get under the luxury-tax line.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration on Friday, leaving their projected luxury-tax payroll at $177 million -- $20 million below the threshold.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius agreed at $8.25 million, pitcher Sonny Gray at $6.5 million and setup man Dellin Betances at $5.1 million. Also reaching deals were relievers Adam Warren ($3,315,000) and Chasen Shreve ($825,000), and backup catcher Austin Romine ($1.1 million).


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We're all aware we live in a divisive time and a divided culture. Folks with the best intentions have split themselves into two tribes, unable to agree not just on common values but common facts.

Of course, I'm talking about the Hall of Fame voting, where close to half the electorate believes the Hall should deny entries to perhaps the greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher in baseball history, and where the other half is willing to apologize for blatant, distortive corruption.

In truth, though, the Bonds/Clemens question might be among the least important. Bonds and Clemens will both be remembered, in all their complicated dominance, for centuries, no matter what happens. As Bill James once wrote of the superest superstars, "the Hall of Fame has lost the capacity to honor Carl Yastrzemski. It can only insult him." Similarly, you can't really honor Bonds and Clemens by inducting them into a group of players literally half as good as they were; you can only insult them by keeping them out. I wouldn't choose to do so, if I had the vote, but they did some bad stuff and it's an understandable position. So there we are.

More important are those players for whom the Hall can honor, the ones whose status in the historical record really does depend on 400 or so baseball writers. Should Omar Vizquel be passed down to our great-grandchildren? Should Scott Rolen? Should closers, should sluggers whose reputations have been tarnished only by innuendo, should designated hitters? In key ways, these questions also seem to come down to that crucial party-line split. You can surmise a lot about a voter based on whether they voted for Bonds and Clemens or didn't. We'll call these parties the Apologists and the Deniers.


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AP Photo/Jim MoneNow that Jack Morris is going to Cooperstown, voters should consider pitchers with shorter careers but higher performances. Case in point: Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling.

Morris had a long career but was never dominant. What does that mean for pitchers like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling making it to Cooperstown?
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Don't let the romanticism of October and November baseball cloud your judgment: Are the World Series clubs really at the top of the pack?

NEW YORK -- Outfielder Aaron Hicks agreed to a $2,825,000, one-year contract with the New York Yankees, who settled with reliever Tommy Kahnle at $1,312,500 in the first deals among the team's eight players eligible for salary arbitration.

New York's luxury tax payroll rose to $124,837,500 for nine players with agreements and Thursday's moves left the Yankees' projected tax payroll at about $178 million -- well under the $197 million tax threshold. The total includes $26 million estimated for the six players still eligible for arbitration, $10 million for the rest of the 40-man roster, $14,044,600 for benefits and a $3 million charge for cash transactions: a $5.5 million payment to Houston as part of the Brian McCann trade, a $500,000 payment to San Diego as part of the Chase Headley and a $3 million credit from Miami as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade.

Hicks spent a pair of lengthy stretches on the disabled list but still managed to set career highs with a .266 average, 15 homers and 52 RBIs in a rebound from a poor first season in New York following his trade from Minnesota. He strained his right oblique muscle June 25 on a checked swing against Texas, returned Aug. 10, then strained his left oblique at Boston on Sept. 2 while making a running catch and came back Sept. 26.

Hicks earned $1.35 million.

Kahnle, with a fastball averaging 98 mph, was 2-4 with a 2.59 ERA in 69 relief appearances last year and made $547,000. He was acquired from the Chicago White Sox


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Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton put the Big in the Big Apple. Is it a clown question to ask if both rank ahead of Bryce Harper in right field?
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A dynamic group of newly minted stars has risen to center field's elite, but can anyone challenge baseball's best player in the Age of Trout?

Slow MLB offseason? Blame Mike Trout!

January, 9, 2018
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Mike TroutBrian Rothmuller/Icon SportswireThe best player in the game would have been a free agent had he not signed an extension in 2014. What if Mike Trout were available this winter?

Earlier this week, David Schoenfield considered 10 possible explanations for baseball's extremely slow offseason. Tucked into one of the 10 was a reminder that Mike Trout would have been a free agent this winter, except he signed a six-year, $144.5 million extension back in March 2014.

Which got me wondering: Is it possible that this entire winter -- and the 10 possible explanations for its dawdling -- would have turned out completely differently but for one decision one player made three-and-a-half years ago?

Let's see:

1. The Angels, five games and six teams back of the second wild-card spot, make Trout available at the 2017 trade deadline. The offers are bonkers, with franchise-altering packages. Rather than risk losing Trout for a single sad draft pick in the offseason, the Angels concede the season, trade Trout, immediately nourish their barren farm system and begin looking past 2018 to 2019.

2. The Dodgers get Trout for the 2017 stretch run. Consequently, the Astros get Yu Darvish


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The Cardinals landed a big Fish for their outfield, while other top performers -- including last year's No. 1 -- sunk.
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The Trenton Thunder, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees, have announced their bat-fetching dog, Derby, has died of cancer.

"Derby was one of the biggest parts of our identity in the nine years of his life and it breaks my heart to share this news with our fans ahead of our 25th season," Thunder general manager Jeff Hurley said in a statement.

The nearly 10-year-old golden retriever began gathering bats for the Thunder as a 2-year-old in 2010. Derby was the son of Chase, the Double-A affiliate's first professional fetcher. Chase also died of cancer, in 2013 at the age of 13.

Like Chase, Derby became a part of the Thunder's fabric, even serving double duty as a water carrier by bringing beverages to umpires on hot days.

"His presence at our games and in the community was massive and every person and dog that interacted with him will miss him dearly," Hurley said.

Derby was a part of community outreach and was even immortalized with a bobblehead featuring him and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.

Derby is survived by his son Rookie and daughter Mickie, both born in 2013. Rookie joined the family business in 2014 and became the Thunder's full-time bat dog in 2016.

The Thunder announced they will host Derby Day on Jan. 26 -- Derby's birthday -- to celebrate the dog's life.


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NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia can earn $2 million in performance bonuses based on innings as part of his $10 million, one-year contract with the Yankees.

Sabathia can earn $500,000 each for 155, 165, 175 and 185 innings as part of the deal announced Dec. 26. The 37-year-old left-hander pitched 148 2/3 innings in 37 starts last year, down from 179 2/3 innings in 30 starts in 2016. He has not reached 185 innings since pitching 211 in 2013.

He is taking a pay cut from the $25 million he earned last year, when he went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts for his best season since 2012. He was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankees loss.

Sabathia needs periodic injections in his surgically repaired right knee. The six-time All-Star is part of a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery.

In another move, the Yankees agreed last week to a minor league contract with utilityman Jace Peterson, who could provide another infield option. If added to the 40-man roster, Peterson would get a one-year deal for a salary of $900,000 while in the major leagues and $180,000 while in the minors.

The 27-year-old became a free agent when Atlanta failed to offer a 2018 contract by the Dec. 2 deadline. He hit .215 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 215 plate appearances for the Braves last year and saw time in right, left and all four infield positions.


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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Didi Gregorius
BA HR RBI R
.287 25 87 73
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Judge 52
RBIA. Judge 114
RA. Judge 128
OPSA. Judge 1.049
WC. Sabathia 14
ERAL. Severino 2.98
SOL. Severino 230