Over the past four seasons, only 10 players have more homers than Pedro Alvarez, who had 27 just last season, at age 28. Mark Trumbo doesn’t turn 30 until next month, and he’s got three seasons of at least 29 homers in his history.
But last week, Carter and Alvarez were cut loose by their respective teams -- simply released with no return -- and Seattle unloaded Trumbo in a salary dump.
These are not expensive players, mind you. All three went into the offseason eligible for arbitration and according to MLB Trade Rumors, Carter was in line to make about $5.6 million had the Astros retained him. Alvarez, $8.1 million. Trumbo’s price tag will be about $9 million.
Thirty years ago, or even 10 years ago, players with this kind of power would be coveted and paid well, in spite of other flaws. In the good ol’ days, you could struggle to catch the ball and rack up a lot of strikeouts but still maintain your perceived value, so long as you hit a bunch of homers.
Sometime in the next three or four days, however, Jason Heyward -- a tall, rangy right fielder who confounded the Braves because he doesn’t hit a lot of homers -- is going to get a whole lot of money largely because he excels defensively. Yoenis Cespedes has a chance to get a bigger deal than Justin Upton because Cespedes can be a better defender, with the ability to play center field. The Angels gave up their top pitching prospect, Sean Newcomb, in return for a shortstop who offers little offensively, Andrelton Simmons.
The game is changing, and based on what we’re seeing in the transactions this winter, the single-tool slugger isn’t valued nearly in the same way he has been in the past.