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The calm before the storm: Hot stove Thoughts by Chris Mitchell

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Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Hot Stove boiled over when Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier were traded and there was a ripple effect when Daniel Murphy signed with the Washington Nationals.The pitcher trades and signings caused a flurry of activity and excitement and now we are all sitting, waiting for the big bats to pick their places and accept their dollars.

This moment of calm that we are existing in has left me thinking and with thoughts come randomness and here they are.

Random Thoughts:


Corey Seager's Fantasy development


I love how Corey Seagers Fantasy value has developed since this time last year (when I traded for him in my Dynasty leagues). Most scouts believe that he will be a serviceable shortstop but that he profiles better defensively as a third baseman. The bat will play for Fantasy owners regardless of where he defends on the diamond, but it profiles as a star at shortstop and a little more average at the hot corner.

At one point or another in the last 15 months he had Jose Peraza, Jimmy Rollins, Alex Guerrero, and Howie Kendrick impacting where he may end up playing defense. It is now a safe assumption that Seager will be the opening day shortstop, which likely means that he will qualify as a Fantasy shortstop for at least three and possibly as many as five or six years. That’s a huge value boost for Seager owners and all it took was 12-15 months of sweating it out.

A Free Agent Value waiting to happen


The thought was that after Jason Heyward signed the dominoes would begin to fall, but it hasn't happened. It is understandable that teams are cautious about giving significant money and years to the big name outfielders, but there is one free agent that General Managers should be able to leverage into a team friendly deal - Ian Desmond.

What makes Ian Desmond interesting is not the risks, but the value that those risks provide a bold General Manager that is willing to use the leverage that Desmond's 2015 season has provided them. He is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, both offensively as well as defensively, and there is doubt about whether he can remain a shortstop.

Defensively


* He committed 27 errors, second most among shortstops.

* He had a DWAR of .9, comparable to Elvis Andrus, Jung Ho-Kang and Alcides Escobar.

Offensively


*His batting average (.233) and on-base percentage (.290) were the lowest of his career.

* You have to go back to 2011 to find a season that he hit fewer home runs, stole fewer bases, or had a lower SLG or OPS.

It seems plausible to me that 3 yrs/$35 million could be the ballpark and that 4 yrs/$48 million should get it done and he could cost less. Brett Gardner signed with the Yankees in 2015 for 4 yrs/$52 million as a plus outfield defender that provides comparable power, better speed and a better ability to get on base than Desmond. In 2015, J.J. Hardy signed a 3yr/$40 million dollar contract as a plus middle infield defender with power who struggled to get on base, a lot like Desmond does. For a player that isn't the infield defender that Hardy is and has never played the outfield, but whose bat profiles comparably to Brett Gardner, it makes sense that this is where Desmond's contract belongs with baseballs "standard cost of living" increase.

This kind of narrative screams bargain a lot louder than the risks associated with Desmond. He played a lot more like the 2014 version of Ian Desmond in the second half of 2015 as well, making it a safer bet for a GM to make. It would take some serious cajones for Desmond's agent to try to strong arm a team into an expensive, long term contract like Jose Reyes or Troy Tulowitzki received. And after his first half struggles in 2015 I find it difficult to believe that he wants to sign a one-year contract in an attempt to bolster his value and hit the market again next offseason. Desmond rumors have swirled around the San Diego Padres recently, I am curious to see how this one unfolds. The Padres could use a trade or signing to go their way after the mess that last offseason turned out to be.

Whats the Hold Up?


Ian Desmond is sitting there waiting to reward the bold and Chris Davis is a different animal that I won't get in to today, but the rest of the big free agent bats have to be scratching their heads wondering what the hold up is. I am talking about the outfielders - Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. It is my contention that they aren't old enough.

Jason Heyward (26 years old) was rewarded handsomely because of his youth and the belief that he still has upside, but it is my belief that Justin Upton (28 years old) and Yoenis Cespedes (30 years old) are being penalized because they aren't young enough or old enough and Alex Gordon is floating in limbo as a result.

Alex Gordon (32 years old) is talented enough to demand a significant Average Annual Value (AAV), but old enough that he can't demand the lengthy contract that can hamstring small, medium, and large market teams like the Jason Heyward contract eventually will. That isn't the case for Upton and Cespedes. At 28 and 30 respectively, it is justifiable for both to expect at least five years and for a team to outbid the field it will likely take at least six if not seven years to get them in to your teams laundry. That’s why we are stalled.

I am sure teams like what Cespedes and Upton bring to the field, but they aren't young enough for teams to feel like they can justify seven or eight years and they aren't old enough to force the player to settle for three or four years like Ben Zobrist was forced to accept and that I expect Alex Gordon to eventually settle for. If Upton was two years younger or Cespedes was two years older then they (along with Alex Gordon) all would have had monster contracts in their Christmas stalkings and expensive Mercedes cars in their garages by now.

Jordan Zimmerman jumped the market and signed quickly, but it appears Alex Gordon isn't looking to take that approach, which means he will have to wait for the game of chicken between Cespedes, Upton and their potential suitors to play out.

If you look at the 2016 free agent class of bats it could be a group that is more appealing to General Managers because it is older and subsequently riskier. The oddity of the free market system is that while the risk of decline amongst next years group will be higher, teams are likely to feel more comfortable jumping in and bidding as opposed to Upton and Cespedes because of the shorter commitments. We can argue the merits of whom is better than whom and yet, the AAV for next years class could be higher, while as a group they are much more of a risky investment.

The 2016 class is headlined by Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre, Matt Holliday, Carlos Gomez and Jose Bautista. All of them will be 34 years or older except for Carlos Gomez who will be 31. This off-season Alex Gordon is being forced to wait to sign because his peers aren't old enough. Next offseason, Carlos Gomez could be waiting because he is too young. It’s a whacky, whacky world out there ladies and gentleman.

Chris Mitchell is a staff writer for RotoExperts.com, a Contributing writer for BaseballAmerica.com, SBNation's MinorLeagueBall.com and FantasyDraft.com. He also hosts two Podcasts: "A Podcast To Be Named Later" and "The RotoExperts Fantasy Sports Show" that formerly aired on the Fantasy Sports Television Network (FNTSY). You can find him on Twitter @CJMitch73.