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Blockbuster week of baseball free agency continues with Cole, Rendon signings

Third baseman Anthony Rendon, now headed to the Los Angeles Angels in a seven-year, $245m free agent deal

Major League Baseball’s blockbuster free agency week continues to rage on with two more massive deals collectively worth nearly $600m.

Just a day after pitcher and World Series Most Valuable Player Stephen Strasburg reached a $245m deal at baseball’s Winter Meetings to remain with the Washington Nationals, Gerrit Cole set a new record for a free agent contract for a MLB pitcher. Cole’s nine-year, $324 million pact with the New York Yankees reached new highwater marks for both overall contract size and average annual value for his position. 

And just as the Cole deal was being finalized, third baseman Anthony Rendon left the Nationals to sign a seven-year $245m deal with the Los Angeles Angels, matching the raw terms of Strasburg’s contract.

All told, that amounts to $814m in financial commitments for a trio of players, all represented by the same agent: Scott Boras. The prominent player representative has made plenty of big deals in his long career, including a $330m contract last year for Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper. But never has he, or anyone else, had such a confluence of nine-figure deals in the span of just a few days.

“Players at the Winter Meetings went from The Big Chill to It’s A Wonderful Life,” Boras said to USA Today. 

He is referencing the last two years of much slower offseason player signing activity, a situation that help deepen labor rifts between MLB and the MLB Players Association.

But prior to the Rendon signing, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred touted the wide range of rights players have under baseball’s free agency system.

“We have the freest free agency in professional sports,” Manfred said. “No rights of first refusal. No salary cap. No franchise tags. None of that. It has produced the largest amount of guaranteed dollars for players in any professional sport.”

When asked what was driving the dramatic return to clubs’ freer-spending ways, Boras said analytic models for roster development embraced by many teams in recent years have not necessarily materialized as expected, both on and off the field. He also cited MLB’s ongoing attendance decline.

“I think a lot of clubs have seen the result of taking an academic approach in a competitive environment,” Boras said. “That has resulted in declines in attendance, lack of interest, and unfulfilled expectations. Therefore, I believe they’re returning to a more traditional approach where they’re going to go out and supplement their teams with known and veteran talent.”