For all the numbers, data, formulas and eyeball scouting, the decision-makers in Major League Baseball are still human—sometimes.

They are prone to non-analytical judgments. They have feelings. They watch the postseason like everyone else. They feel the ups and the downs, and they see and feel the emotion involved with it all.

The point being, every year we see how the postseason can alter the free-agent and trade markets during the winter. Whether a player’s value drops or rises because of playoff performance, or a team realizes a weakness it needs to address, the postseason annually shifts the offseason landscape, even if it’s just a little bit.

Pablo Sandoval benefitted from this last year. After a playoff run with the San Francisco Giants that saw him bat .366/.423/.465 with an .888 OPS despite not hitting a home run, Sandoval’s value soared in the eyes of at least one organization, and the Boston Red Sox ended up paying him $95 million over five years.

It worked in the opposite way for James Shields. After he had a 6.12 ERA in five playoff starts for the Kansas City Royals last fall, Shields suddenly became even older, and the innings on his arm became heavier. Once seen as a premier free-agent pitcher, the right-hander waited until February before signing a four-year, $75 million deal with the San Diego Padres while other pitchers have routinely surpassed nine figures—age played a big role in those signings, but some had weaker track records than Shields.

We are nearly through this year’s postseason, and the same storylines have already played out for some players and teams. The market has been altered based on early postseason exits and individual performances. Eventually track records and age are the most important things in evaluating these situations, but there is no doubt the postseason can help or hurt certain cases.


Impact on Free Agency

The top free agents playing in this postseason were David Price, Zack Greinke, Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Heyward, in random order. None of them have used these playoffs to impact their future earnings more than Price, but keep in mind it always takes only one team to be willing to pay a top-end ticket.

It could be argued that through the regular season, Price was the top starter on the open market. After posting a 2.45 ERA and 161 ERA+, the left-hander could have been looking for a contract topping $200 million, putting him in the neighborhood of Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.

However, Price has a 7.02 ERA in this postseason, and it is 5.65 over his last eight playoff appearances. He has been so questionable, the Toronto Blue Jays had the option of saving Price for a series-deciding Game 5 start in the American League Division Series, but they elected to use Price in relief instead and start Marcus Stroman in Game 5. That has given Price just two starts through Toronto’s first nine 10 games, which is more like a No. 3 or 4 starter rather than an ace.

Once again, though, it only takes one team willing to pay. With the Los Angeles Dodgers having their lack of rotation depth exposed in the National League Division Series and the New York Yankees lacking depth all season, Price can market himself to two of the richest franchises in sports history.

Greinke, Cespedes and Heyward have not done a whole lot to alter their stocks, although Heyward’s 1.080 OPS in 16 NLDS plate appearances was impressive. One man who has: New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Murphy is hitting .421/.436/1.026 this postseason with an uncharacteristic seven home runs in nine games. Even with objective and informed front offices, that production could hold some weight. Then again, the fact that the Mets are reportedly unwilling to re-sign Murphy is a huge albatross on his eventual value.

“He’s been great, really great,” a source told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, “but it changes nothing.” 

Further hurting Murphy’s value is that the Mets now plan to make him a qualifying offer of $15.8 million because he’s been so good in the postseason, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s likely a PR decision since the Mets do not want to pay him that much while they have a seemingly capable second base prospect in Dilson Herrera waiting his turn, but ultimately it could mean Murphy is shied away from because he would be tied to draft compensation.

His great postseason to this point has served him well, but it might also hurt him by pulling in a qualifying offer. Then again, there are always the Yankees with their hole at second base and short right field porch.

Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada has also helped his stock in this postseason with five earned runs allowed in three starts (19.1 innings, 2.33 ERA). It has not been a fluke, either, as his ERA in his final 20 regular-season starts was 2.62 in 123.2 innings.

His value won’t rise dramatically because he will be 33 next July, but he has established himself as a capable full-time back-end starter at the very least, and a quality No. 3 at best. Without a doubt, he has earned himself a strong market that could range from the Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox.

“He’s looking pretty,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters. “He’s a free agent. The timing is important for him.”


Impact on Trade Market

The trade market has been affected much less by the postseason than the free-agent market, mainly because guys like Murphy and Estrada will be free agents. If they were under contract beyond this season, their trade values would have soared. Also, any team weakness exposed was already known. Still, the playoffs have highlighted certain needs for certain teams.

The Dodgers bullpen issues have been known for most of the regular season since its 3.91 ERA was in the bottom half of the National League. In this postseason, that jumped to 4.61 in 13.2 innings (seven earned runs) despite its 18 strikeouts. Setup man Chris Hatcher and closer Kenley Jansen were very good—not allowing a run and striking out seven in a combined seven innings. 

In fact, four other Dodger relievers were not scored on in the NLDS against the Mets, although none of them pitched more than 1.1 innings. All of the damage came against regular-season starter Alex Wood (four runs in two innings) and Pedro Baez (three runs in 0.1 innings over two appearances).

Again, this postseason did not expose what was unknown. And this is also not a complete teardown and rebuild for the Dodgers front office, which is heading into its second offseason. An arm here or there could suffice just fine, and if they aren’t wiling to pay for such arms, they could attempt to pry away quality arms from any number of teams, including the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees played only one postseason game, losing the American League Wild Card, but the overall inconsistency and fragileness of their rotation all season has them in the market for starting pitching. If they aren’t willing to pay for it on the open market, they are likely to turn to trade options, which could include Shields, Tyson Ross or anybody the Oakland A’s employ.

Other playoff teams could be in on rotation parts as well. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs could be two of them, while the St. Louis Cardinals might be in the market for a bat.

Whatever way this postseason plays out, it has already affected the offseason transaction season. Exactly how much it has is a matter of waiting and seeing.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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