Friday, February 1, 2019

The hot stove's gone cold: MLB free agency in three charts

We are three months into Major League Baseball's (MLB's) Free Agency and roughly 50% of players are still without a team. While there is lots of speculation about where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are going to sign, there are plenty of strong(-ish) candidates who are vying for contracts in an offseason that is moving much slower than anticipated.

So what can we learn from the current state of MLB Free Agency? Let me show you in three simple charts: less paragraphs, more econ graphs!

If we look at the overall number of signings over time, we see the last two Free Agency periods have slowed relative to the norm. There are many conjectures about why we see this but one thing we know for sure is that is is likely not because the pool of Free Agents is weaker than years past... 

Relative to the pool of available Free Agents in the 2016/17 offseason, the 2018/19 pool of Free Agents is anywhere from somewhat stronger to much stronger!

The biggest concern for critics, such as Washington National's pitcher Sean Doolittle, is that there is a strong pool of available Free Agents just ready to be signed.
Many have also shown that hypothetical teams made up of existing Free Agents, the so-called All-Free Agent Teams, would rank among the best in baseball. Indeed the graph below shows that today's available Free Agents are as strong as last year's signed Free Agents!

But the most important thing to realise is that with just a couple more signings, ostensibly picking out the best available Free Agents, and the market will provide some balance once again. I have created a simple logistic regression to predict who will be the next likely Free Agent signing and it shows below, the grey marker for available Free Agents will drop for Opening Day 2019 as only a few more quality Free Agents are signed.

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