First Pitch: MLB Free Agency Begins – What to Expect

Major League Baseball free agency officially began at midnight. Players who were eligible for free agency actually became free agents last week, but the exclusive negotiating window ended at 11:59 PM EST on Monday night. Free agents can now sign with any team they wish.

The Pirates have seven free agents — A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Clint Barmes, Jeff Karstens, Kyle Farnsworth, Justin Morneau, and John Buck. They have shown interest in bringing back Burnett, Byrd, and Barmes. They decided against making Burnett a qualifying offer, although he has said he’s deciding between the Pirates and retiring.

Baseball free agency is slow. In other sports, players become free agents and they immediately sign at midnight. In baseball, it can take a few weeks for players to sign. Most of the action really starts around the Winter Meetings in early December. Signings can even expand into January.

The Pirates have been a little more aggressive in the last few years when it came to free agents, signing players before the Winter Meetings. Here are some signing dates for their major free agents the last few years.

November 10, 2011 – Rod Barajas

November 21, 2011 – Clint Barmes

November 30, 2012 – Russell Martin

Barajas was a bad signing all around. Barmes was productive defensively, although he was highly priced for his productions. In each case the Pirates paid more to get the player they wanted, rather than waiting around for other teams to get in the bidding. That process really paid off last year when they gave Russell Martin $17 M for two years. Meanwhile, the Yankees weren’t willing to offer that much. The Pirates could have held out for three years — which is what the Yankees were going for prior to the 2012 season — but they settled for two years to get Martin signed.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Pirates signed at least one of their major league free agents in November, since they’ve shown an aggressive approach in each of the last two off-seasons. As for minor league free agents, there should be several players signed in November. Here are the minor league players who have signed in November the last two years.

Tim Wood, Mike Ryan, Wyatt Toregas, Jake Fox, Shairon Mathis, Brandon Boggs, Nick Evans, Darren Ford, Ryan Reid, Jeff Larish, Felix Pie

There aren’t a lot of big names involved there, and that’s usually the case with minor league free agency. Ryan Reid and Felix Pie both made minor contributions to the 2013 Pirates.

So when it comes to signings, we might see a major league signing come this month, and we should definitely see some minor league signings over the next few weeks. What about rumors?

Last year the main rumors for Russell Martin came a week before he signed. There was interest reported on November 27th, a rumor about a three-year, $25 M deal on the 28th, and Martin signed two days later. On the 30th there were rumors that the Pirates were shopping Joel Hanrahan and that they were trying to retain Jason Grilli. As for rumors that didn’t come true, there was a connection to Justin Upton on November 9th, although that was mostly looking at teams that could deal for Upton. I’d imagine this year’s “Upton” will be Giancarlo Stanton.

In 2011 there were more rumors in November. The Clint Barmes rumors started on November 6th, which was about two weeks before he signed. There were also plenty of rumors that didn’t come true, although MLBTR predicted a busy off-season at the start of the month, and it seemed like they were looking at everyone.

Rumors are always unpredictable. In 2011-2012 November was crazy, although very few rumors were accurate. Last off-season was slow on rumors, but the rumors were extremely accurate in November, with the Justin Upton suggestion being the only one that didn’t happen. Again, that wasn’t really a rumor, but it was a look at five teams that could trade for Upton.

The Pirates could very easily make an early splash in free agency, and that could happen if they sign A.J. Burnett. They could also be aggressive again and sign some players before the end of November. As for the rumors, it will be interesting to see how accurate this year’s batch will be.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Don’t Issue a Qualifying Offer For A.J. Burnett

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap: Left Field

**How Good Are The Pitchers Facing Gregory Polanco?

**Francisco Liriano Named the NL Comeback Player of the Year

**Jim Benedict Reportedly Impressed the Phillies in His Interview

**MLBTR Projects Burnett and Byrd Will Return to the Pirates

Winter Leagues

**AFL: Ngoepe Picks Up RBI In Scottsdale Win

**Winter Leagues: Polanco Loses Hitting Streak In Loss

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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