Winter Drags On, With Free Agents Still Waiting by the Phone

In additional words, you could still form a pretty Great team just through the remaining free agents.

“that will has been coming for six, seven, eight years,” said Mike Stanton, the former Yankees reliever, who represented the team to the union during the 2002 collective bargaining talks. “Free agency gets pushed back as well as pushed back because teams know once you get closer to spring training, prices are going to come down. Eventually, players want a team to play for. There’s pressure through home, through friends, all around, to figure out where you’re going to go.”

Stanton, right now an analyst for the Houston Astros as well as for MLB Network Radio, does not like what he sees. He will not use the word collusion — the practice of owners working together to hold down salaries, which happened inside the 1980s — however he has noticed a startling lack of urgency in that will market. Typically, a team will add an extra year as well as another million or two in annual salary to separate its offer through the field. however sensible deals like Jay Bruce’s with the Mets, for three years as well as $39 million, seem to reflect a lack of desperation.


Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during the playoffs. Team have snapped up relievers that will off-season, however a group of top starters is actually still waiting.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

“Teams are running the idea more like a business,” Stanton said. “You always had those loose cannons out there who might overpay for guys, as well as those owners just aren’t there anymore. You see more young-gun G.M.s who want to show they can put a winning product on the field without spending $250 million.”

With analytics right now entrenched in front offices, teams are placing similar values on free agents as well as becoming increasingly wary of paying players into their mid-to-late 30s. Next year’s dazzling class, with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson as well as (potentially) Clayton Kershaw, could be more tempting.

Some teams, like the Yankees as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, are trying to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold to reset their tax rate — generating the idea a kind of salary cap, something the union has always opposed on principle. Tony Clark, the executive director of the players’ association, declined through a spokesman to comment on the market.

The agent Scott Boras pointed to additional elements of the collective bargaining agreement as contributing factors to the slowdown. The system allows the worst teams to spend the most money for amateur talent, with severe penalties for teams that will exceed their allotted bonus pools.


The former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, above, is actually represented by the agent Scott Boras, who expressed confidence that will teams eventually might engage with his clients.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

“the idea has created an incentive to lose, as well as we right now have a process where teams are not seeking competitiveness as well as therefore they’re not seeking players to be competitive,” Boras said that will week, adding later: “To make baseball what the idea should be — a league of 30 that will are incentivized to compete — we need to address these rules to say: You get more money inside the draft if you win x number of games, as well as if you finish below a certain standard, you don’t get a top-all 5 or top-10 pick. that will will make the league more entertaining as well as make baseball better, because we want to wake up every day as well as know that will every team has an incentive to win, not an incentive to lose.”

Several divisions appear to have clear favorites: the Astros, the Indians, the Dodgers as well as the Washington Nationals all finished first by at least 11 games last season, as well as all look strong again. Those teams may feel little pressure to spend, as well as others may believe they are too far away for a free agent to make much difference.

Another factor is actually Boras, who represents Hosmer, Moustakas, Arrieta, Martinez, Holland as well as Gomez. He has waited until deep into the off-season before, finding deals worth more than $0 million for Prince Fielder as well as Max Scherzer inside the second half of January. A slow-moving market does not worry him.

“Fans know that will talent is actually there,” Boras said. “They know that will without that will talent, the probability of the team winning is actually dramatically altered. So I have always trusted the fact that will the credibility of that will ethic will serve both the teams as well as the players.”

Once Boras’s elite clients sign, perhaps, the rest of the market will sort itself out. He believes that will so many teams are able to sign top-tier free agents that will they are reluctant to move to lesser options until those players are gone.

“that will is actually not about the ability to pay,” Boras said. “the idea’s about choices.”

For right now, teams have mostly chosen to engage on the market for middle relievers. Twelve such pitchers have signed multiyear deals for at least $10 million total. that will could reflect the way the game is actually changing; after a record year for homers, players like Morrison (38 home runs) as well as Lucas Duda (30) are not as rare as they once were. however with starters going fewer as well as fewer innings, teams are eager for dependable relievers.

Another unmistakable trend is actually that will tear-downs work. The last three champions — the 2015 Royals, the 2016 Chicago Cubs as well as the 2017 Astros — each endured a long rebuilding process before their title. Yet Boras objected to the notion that will teams could not be blamed for following that will playbook.

“I take great issue with that will,” he said. “When you’re a professional player as well as you sign that will contract, on your first day, you’re taught that will you’re here to win, you’re here to compete, you’re here to be your best. as well as if they teach that will to their young players as well as they tell the fans they’re here to win, then the entirety of that will process in pro sports needs to be about winning — as well as the structure needs to have immediate change to address that will.”

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