SAN DIEGO -- The industry's executives and agents filed out of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in clusters late Wednesday afternoon, leaving behind the madness of an event that had somehow exceeded lofty expectations of extravagance. Major League Baseball's winter meetings, back for the first time in three years, had seen money flow and precedents buckle -- but one final stunner remained. It came Wednesday night, while most of the sport's movers and shakers sat inside airplanes bound for their respective home cities. The San Diego Padres, a midmarket team that already possessed enviable infield depth and a massive payroll, agreed on an 11-year, $280 million contract with Xander Bogaerts, one of the premier shortstops on the free agent market. A text message from a rival general manager said it all:
Holy s---. I'm totally speechless.
From the start of Monday to the end of Wednesday, 20 major league free agents agreed to contracts totaling nearly $1.6 billion. The vast majority did so while outshooting their projections. And if there was one phrase that could encapsulate the week's event, it was that one -- muttered so often by front-office members, agents, scouts, coaches and media members that it might as well have been part of the branding. The winter meetings, presented by Holy S---.
This offseason, signs of a spending spree had come early. One day after the World Series ended, the New York Mets brought back Edwin Diaz on a five-year, $102 million deal that stood as the richest ever for a reliever. Three days later, Robert Suarez and Rafael Montero -- two non-closing relievers with minimal major league dominance in their track records -- secured multiyear deals totaling $80.5 million from the Padres and the Houston Astros, respectively. Four days after Thanksgiving, Jose Abreu, who will be 36 next month, received three guaranteed years at an annual rate of nearly $20 million from the Astros. Jacob deGrom, a 34-year-old right-hander who accumulated 156⅓ innings the past two seasons, followed by garnering a five-year, $185 million contract from the Texas Rangers on Dec. 2 -- a deal the industry's executives were still stunned by when they arrived for the winter meetings a couple of nights later.
It was only an appetizer.