Players Share Blame For Free Agent Stalemate
Now comes the great debate for Major League Baseball.
Is it collusion or common sense that has led to the slow market for free agents?
The owners have been found guilty of collusion in the past.
And it could be at work again, but it also is reasonable to feel that given the luxury tax for teams that exceed a payroll cap, and the growing usage of analytics working to limit the emotional shopping on the free agent market has teams being more particular now than they have been in the past.
Teams are not necessary cutting corners on annual salaries, but they are balking over length.
Among the 163 players who became XX B Free Agents -- the free agents created by the Messersmith/McNally and became a part of MLB’s off-season efforts for the 1977 season -- only one of the 50 who agreed to deals through Sunday received more than a three-year guarantee.
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain received a five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers.
Teams have come up with healthy salaries for the players who have agreed to sign, including closer Wade Davis, whose three-year, $52 million deal with the Rockies has the highest annual average value ever for a relief pitcher ($17.3 million), and first baseman Carlos Santana’s three-year deal with the Phillies for $60 million.
With spring camps scheduled to start opening next weekend, however, 113 XX B free agents remain on the market, which led to several agents hint about a possible boycott of spring training camps, although the Major League Baseball Players Association has denied the idea has been broached.
As big a factor is that only three of the top 10 players as ranked by Fan Graphs have signed – Cain, Wade and Santana, who each received quality contracts.
There is the Scott Boras factor. Three of the seven unsigned are his clients – DH/outfielder J.D. Martinez, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas. There has been a feeling that offensive players have been in a holding pattern waiting on Martinez to set the top end of the market. Teams, however, have been slow in responding to Martinez, who was creating speculation early this off-season his price could exceed $200 million.
And there could be given the statistical revolution in the game that teams are leery over long-term deals for players in their 30s, and five of the seven remaining free agents among the top 10 have celebrated their 30th birthday – Yu Darvish (31), Martinez (30), Jake Arrieta (32), Zack Cozart (32) and Alex Cobb (29).
It’s one thing to give a player in his early 30s a three-year deal, but when agents start to talk about five years or more teams could be hesitant to protect their budgets in later years.
Some numbers to crunch:
Since the advent of the XX B Free Agent Market for the 1977 season there have been 146 players who had 1,000 plate appearances, less than half of them as a DH, after turning 35. Only 12 of them hit .300, and 96 of them hit below .280, including 44 who hit less than .260.
12 Players Hit .300 After Turning 35 (minimum 1,000 plate appearances)
18 of 50 pitchers who made at least 50 starts after turning 35 since the start of the 1977 had an ERA below 4.00, five below 3.50
15 of 125 relievers mdre 100 or more apperances after turning 35 since the start of the 1977 season and had an ERA below 4.00.
10 of the relievers had as many as 100 saves after turning 35.