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Between The Lines: The Home Run Thrill Is Dying, Power Hitters Still Left On Market

Why haven't the game's top power hitters been signed, yet? Carmine DiPalma of HardballScoop.com reads between the lines.

The homerun is just not paying like it used too. Don’t believe me? Steve Phillips went on air at MLB Network Radio to discuss the free agency of Jose Bautista and went on to say, “There's a good chance Jose Bautista doesn't sign until after the June draft. I don't see anyone giving up a first-round pick.”


Perennial home run threats used to make ridiculous amounts of money to do what they do best, hit homeruns. However, that may have changed this offseason as two of the most prolific sluggers in the game remain free agents in the middle of January. Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo have yet to sign deals and are just about a month away from Spring Training without knowing where they will report. To add insult to injury, nothing appears imminent on either player signing with any team soon.

Jose Bautista is known for his absolute moonshot homeruns and the way in which he lets everyone in the park know what he just did. Al la the bat flip seen around the world against the Rangers in the 2015 playoffs. Last season, an injury cut into his numbers but he still managed to hit 22 home runs in 116 games.

He may be more suited for a designated hitter role but there is no doubt that Bautista is still capable of driving the long ball. But what gives? He has received virtually no imminent interest this offseason. The closest he has come to true interest would be the Blue Jays toying with bringing him back on a one-year deal and the Phillies even played with the idea of signing him which did not advance at all.

Mark Trumbo is a bit of a different animal. Trumbo's career seemed to be in shambles when the Baltimore Orioles took a one-year flier on him last offseason, acquiring him for practically nothing from the Seattle Mariners. Trumbo rapidly turned into a league wide threat at the plate. He hunted fastballs and waited for a mistake from the pitcher and promptly deposited the ball into the stands, almost effortlessly.

Trumbo slugged 47 bombs for the O's turning himself into one of the best active home run hitters. He led the Major Leagues in bombs by a four homerun margin. Everything seemed to click on a one-year deal with every sign pointing to Trumbo becoming a very rich man on the back of his homerun hitting ability. 

Yet after those impressive seasons and track records both Bautista and Trumbo remain free agents with no imminent interest. You may be able to point to both sluggers aging and on the wrong side of 30. You could also point to the draft pick that is attached to signing either slugger as a result of the qualifying offer they each received. However, you must start to entertain the fact that the ability to hit the homerun just is not paying like it used too. 

You may wonder if there even is a correlation to hitting homeruns and making a lot of money, so here are the top five contracts that big time homerun hitters have signed in the past:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton, $325 million (2015-2027)
  2. Alex Rodriguez, $275 million (2008-2017)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, $248 million (2016-2023)
  4. Albert Pujols, $240 million (2012-2021)
  5. Robinson Cano, $240 million (2014-2023)

Some of these contracts have turned out better than others. However when these players were free agents or negotiating extensions they were heavily coveted for their ability to hit the long ball. You may say that these five players are significantly more talented than Trumbo and Bautista however their homerun abilities are very comparable.

Between these five players, all of them have hit at least 37 home runs in a single season before, as did Trumbo and Bautista. But, these five players have made a ton of money thanks to their power and Bautista and Trumbo still await a deal. Age truly is not a factor here as a few of these players were around Trumbo's age when they signed so one would think Trumbo could have fetched a three-year deal. Surely, Bautista, who instantly strengthens anyone's lineup, could perhaps fetch that same length in a deal of his own. However that has not been the case.

You could look at this situation as if the right team has not come by or the fact that a team does not want to give up a draft pick for either player. I don't buy that. Giving up a draft pick to sign a player who is known as a dangerous bat that could deepen your lineup instantly, should be worth it. I instead look at this as if owners do not believe homeruns sell seats any longer. This could be true, fans could have evolved to enjoy the gem a pitcher is twirling or the dive the outfielder just made to end the game.

Perhaps general managers are weary that these sluggers are injury prone. It could even go as far as the limited mobility within the roster. Lastly, if these players require a DH spot, that would eliminate half of the teams instantly. It will be interesting to see whether or not either of these two players must wait until after the draft to sign with a team or if they could get it done within the next few weeks before Spring Training.


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