This MLB offseason has been unlike any other in history, as with less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, the likes of J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and other marquee players remain free agents.
Part of the reason for that is that teams that are usually big spenders in the free-agent market, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, have prioritized remaining below the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season.
But another explanation is long-term contracts for players north of 30 years old in the past have not worked out so well. Thus, teams are hesitant to give these players the contracts they desire.
Some also believe that collusion is coming into play, with several teams not prioritizing winning. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain recently signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, but other than that no free agent has signed a contract longer than three years.
The players are obviously not happy with how this offseason has gone so far, and agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Baseball expressed that displeasure in a statement, which included a threat that the players may boycott Spring Training this year if things don’t change soon:
“There is a tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two, and perhaps 1,200 willing to follow. A boycott of Spring Training may be a starting point, if behavior doesn’t change.”
A previous report indicated some of the top free agents were considering organizing a special camp to take the place of what would be time spent with a club for Spring Training.
While speaking at Dodgers FanFest, general manager Farhan Zaidi dispelled the notion that a lack of activity would lead to team-friendly contracts across the board. “There’s always this unknown of, just because guys are out there doesn’t mean they’re going to end up signing bargain deals,” Zaidi said.
“Some of these guys that are out there may still wind up getting what people anticipated.”
Although it appears something would need to give as camps are due to open this month, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, setting the stage for what could be a significant battle between players and owners.