Union leader Tony Clark says major league players remain concerned about the unusual amount of unsigned free agents with spring training nearing the end of its second week.
Clark began his annual tour of camps on Saturday with Boston in Fort Myers. Clark said after his session in the Red Sox clubhouse that the union’s special training camp for free agents in Bradenton will stay open indefinitely.
About one-third of the 166 players who exercised free agency rights last November have not reached a contract agreement with a team. That includes stars like starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Clark said “everything’s worthy of more discussion” on the subject of a potential tanking tax or a payroll floor for a future collective bargaining agreement.
Aside from a few major moves—Ohtani to the Angels, the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton traded to the Yankees—the offseason has been defined by a puzzling inaction.
As the list of those currently out of work is long enough, the players’ union is running its own satellite spring training, in Bradenton, allowing those still awaiting the call to keep their skills sharp. Clark released a statement condemning what in the union’s view were clubs more concerned with pocketing profits than fielding competitive teams. “This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom,” Clark wrote. “This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game.”
MLB was quick to defend itself, pinning the blame on avaricious agents: “It is the responsibility of players’ agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free-agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement [which imposes steep luxury-tax penalties for crossing a certain spending threshold].”
The free agent market has been historically ugly this winter, and the start of spring training won’t end the freeze.
In a sport becoming ever more analytically advanced, it’s a question of cost and benefit. Teams would rather pay for what someone else might do than for what you already may have done.
But by regularly agreeing to long term, nine figure contracts for ball players whose best years are behind them in most cases, owners have grossly inflated the market and are mostly to blame for the current squabbles. Without question, there are ball players who clearly deserve the contracts bestowed upon them. However, not every pitcher is Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer and not every outfielder is Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton.
MLB Players Still Concerned About Unsigned Free Agents