The snail’s pace of the 2017-2018 offseason is painfully apparent, and it’s been painstakingly examined. One union official appears to believe it’s a symptom of issues that’ll inevitably lead to new labor negotiations, which in turn could reshape the infrastructure of baseball’s economic landscape. While such an assessment certainly seems extreme, so is the unprecedented territory the market is about to embark upon: if nothing changes in the next three days, February will emerge with the top five free agents lacking jobs, and ten of the top twenty.
Before we get too deep into the gravity of a situation that could still feasibly resolve itself ahead of spring training, let’s begin by rejecting the idea that just one factor is at play in this undertaking. The historic circumstances before us are likely due to a convergence of contributing powers (though one could feasibly make a case that the symptoms all stem from one singular disease). But as ever, we only know a laughable percentage of the information buried deep within the offices of ballclubs, player agents and the MLBPA. With that in mind, it might be more rational for us all to examine the individual catalysts on the surface rather than develop conspiracy theories about how they might all be interwoven.
To that end, here are some items that, in theory, could be holding up the market…
The Competitive Balance Tax: If the combined average annual salaries of all players on a team’s roster exceed $197MM in 2018, that team will need to pay a tax on the overage. The luxury tax isn’t anything new. However, with the escalating penalties built into the current CBA, some teams are paying as much as 50% on the surplus. The Yankees, Dodgers and Giants are all taking this heavily into consideration for the coming season, and are seemingly working very hard to remain below the threshold in order to reset the escalators. If they manage to do so, the incentive is that they’ll only need to pay a 20% tax on their next overage.
While one might react by pointing out that those teams can certainly afford high penalties, it’s fair to mention that resetting the escalators will save them money not just for one or two seasons, but potentially through 2021. That footnote is all the more relevant when one considers the caliber of players who will be available on the free agent market next season (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, etc.), and the dollars those players are likely to command. If the Yankees, as a purely speculative example, were interested in vying heavily for the services of Harper and Machado, they could end up blowing past the 2019 tax barrier ($206MM) by over $50MM. In such an instance, resetting the cap in 2018 would make not only a difference of $15MM the following season, but perhaps some $10MM the year after that, and yet more dollars in the season that follows.
Tying it all back to the free agent market, these considerations could dramatically reduce the competition for the top tier free agents by removing three or four of their potential suitors. Because over a dozen teams are already eliminated from the running due to their market size (and resulting income), while still others may not have a need for a given free agent’s position, the upper echelon of free agents may be seeing their market value fall off due to the law of supply and demand. Looking at it from another angle, if a player was expected to have eight suitors and now has only three or four, those remaining teams may be less afraid of seeing their target scooped up, and may therefore feel more comfortable waiting for his price to drop.
Collusion: It’s important to note immediately that MLB has staunchly denied any collusion between its teams, and has made readily apparent the lack of evidence to support any such claims. Indeed, there is no legitimate reason to think that MLB isn’t telling the truth. That being said, I’ve included this in the list simply because the notion still going to be on some fans’ minds. The motivation for potential collusion is obvious: if all 30 teams collectively agreed to wait until free agent prices dropped, they’d stand to save tens of millions of dollars between them. At its core, MLB would still have baseball games to produce absent a couple dozen players… the players themselves would have much more to lose. Being that this is such a dark subject (and incredibly unlikely), we won’t spend any more time looking at it.
Agent Scott Boras: In its denial of collusion, MLB aptly pointed out that a certain agent who is know for being incredibly patient represents a large number of free agents who are still on the market. Furthermore, Boras was said to be seeking an astronomical deal for J.D. Martinez at the outset of the offseason. If the asking price for Martinez remains anything close to that number, it’s easy imagine that no team sees him as capable of providing value on such a contract. And if that’s also the case for Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer as well, the fact that all four remain unemployed would simply make fiscal sense. Going deeper down the rabbit hole of this hypothetical scenario, it’s not hard to imagine that many teams would want to wait for these dominoes to fall before turning to inferior options.
Coalescence of Player Evaluation: With a statistical revolution already many years in the making, focus on advanced scouting and analytics has increased tenfold. But from GMs to interns, hundreds of employees have changed organizations, and it’s thought possible that teams are converging on uniformity by which they evaluate players. If that’s true, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if all teams quietly and unknowingly agreed on price points for free agents; that would obviously reduce the likelihood that two or more teams end up in a bidding war for a player’s services.
Focus on Next Year’s Class: This one’s pretty simple. Teams like the Phillies and Braves might not like their chances of competing this year, and therefore could be comparing members of this year’s class with those of next year’s. For example, why the Phillies spend on Moustakas when Machado is a possibility and they see themselves as unlikely to compete with the Nationals this year? It could be that they’re only interested in the former if he comes at a bargain (the latter certainly won’t), so it would make perfect sense that Philadelphia might be willing to balk at his actual market value.
Apathy Towards a Free Agency: Teams are well aware at this point that lengthy contracts given to aging players seldom work out well and sometimes handcuff a franchise for years. Albert Pujols, for example, was worth two full wins below replacement level in 2017, and he’s signed through the 2021 season. The aging DH is a liability on the roster at this point, meaning the Angels owe him over $100MM in what amounts to a sunk cost. Contracts given to Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder have worked out similarly towards the tail ends, and plenty of other large and medium-sized contracts have hurt a team’s ability to compete for years. Free agency, at its core, is an incredibly cost-inefficient market. It’s possible that teams have simply learned their lesson about promising too many years to players who are, by the very nature of an aging curve, in a phase of decline.
Lack of Effort to Win: The past two teams to win a World Series got there by tanking for years, putting that model firmly in the spotlight. In some cases, fans may now be rooting for their teams to lose for a few years in order to match the extreme nature of the Houston and Chicago rebuilds. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports pointed out in this piece, there are at least eight MLB teams who have absolutely no intention to compete in the free agent market this winter, in part because those teams have no desire to put effort towards a title run in 2018.
Tanking has become an acceptable business model, and a lucrative one considering the money not spend on free agents can simply become revenue instead. With nearly a third of all teams content to sit out, it would make sense that the market just never developed like it has in the past. Indeed, many teams have turned to the trade market to fill their needs; a strategy that’s become that much more feasible due to the number of teams not trying to win.
Players Overestimating Their Markets: While there is certainly incredible upside to players like Darvish, Martinez and Hosmer, there are significant question marks surrounding each of them. Darvish had a dreadful World Series performance and has been through Tommy John surgery in his career. Martinez has missed significant time in two of the past three seasons. Hosmer has played at or below replacement level in three seasons of his career. And yet the latter two haven’t accepted reported offers of over $120MM. This year’s class of free agents is imperfect, and perhaps they simply overestimated their markets at the outset of the offseason.
While this covers the bulk of the obvious potential explanations, there are yet others I haven’t even touched on. But at this point, I’d like to ask you all to weigh in. Yes, the slow offseason has certainly been caused by a number of factors. But what do you think is the biggest contributor to the pace of the market?
(Poll link for app users)
Lol Collusion is a choice?
Players overestimating their value and Scott Boras, should be reasons 1 & 2.
Hosmer with his average 1B stats Moustakas with his pedestrian all or nothing swing, Arrietta who’s on a decline be trajectory all deserve mega-deal?
…but these have been key factors of every free agency for as long as Boras has been in the business, so I disagree. Part of the negotiation is coming in with a high (possibly overvalued) demand for services, so for this offseason to be so uniquely stagnant would seem to indicate factors outside the overvaluing/Boras effect. I voted for the general realization that advanced stats are (finally) being used to provide a better picture of potential rather than past performance. Despite the fact that these 30 billionaire owners likely dont care about an individual fan’s opinions, I do think that fan approval, as a whole, is starting to become of more importance. A large contract to a top free agent is instant gratification to the fanbase, because it takes away the arguments that ownership is cheap, unwilling to win or, god forbid, rebuilding. However, when that same fanbase gets to watch a Josh Hamilton or Jacoby Ellsbury or Pablo Sndoval contract blunder, there becomes the argument that we see more and more of in today’s FA climate: players of a certain age with glaring statistical red flags are not worth the kind of investment previously handed out to above-mentioned players.
Where you’re mistake is that Boras basically all the remaining big name free agents available. I can’t remember an off-season where this has been the case. Usually he has 2 or 3 big ones and then some minor ones.
I find it refreshing that “collusion” finished last among the listed possibilities. So sick of the tin foil hat Oliver Stone people with a conspiracy around every corner.
Call it a perfect storm if you wish–but the collective WAR of this year’s FA cast is really mediocre. You don’t want to be in the penalty this year if you’re going after any of next year’s players. And we’ve got a whole league full of GMs now who have learned how to play this game and they’re not getting hosed into a bunch of Pujols contracts
while i dont believe in collusion amongst owners for nfl players like kaepernick, tebow and manziel, i do believe that mlb owners in a one off colluded against barry bonds. you will not be able to convince me that the year after he left the giants, no mlb team felt the distraction was worth the money in a league without a salary cap. especially an american league team like the yankees who deal with distractions every year. at the very least a team “going for it all” should have taken a chance on him after the trade deadline. the guy had an obp over .500! someone could have used that in the playoffs.
Of course it’s the greedy players and agents like Boras. Obviously players are gonna get paid well, but that dosent mean guys deserve 200 and 300 mill contracts.lol obviously it’s gotten to ridiculous levels. I mean, how embarrassing to even ask for the kinda money these guys ask for. And the whole one team overpays for a player means every team should for players is also ridiculous. And the owners own the teams, so they got to buy in, unlike the players. I would want big rewards for paying hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars to buy a team also. It’s the players, period.
Obviously the owners realize they have been overpaying. The analytics show that even four year contracts are stupid.
Any real fan would have said no to the stupid contracts to Pujols, Hamilton,Panda, and many others. Maybe the owners are just wising up.
Distraction? We’tre not talking flies buzzing your family picnic. Bonds was a world class egomaniac and seemingly a jerk. It may not have taken much on the collude scale to resist signing him. 🙂
So the players are greedy but not the owners
Id rather the players get the money instead of the owners!
Disagree, the owners are the ones that invest & shell out millions and take risks. Many things can go awry. The players risk virtually nothing with huge contracts fully guaranteed. They get paid no matter what in MLB, unlike the NBA & NFL, and that needs to be addressed.
I don’t understand that point of view at all. What does “overpaid” mean? Every FA since the dawn of time, except for a select few, are “overpaid” by some measure. In fact, by other measures every veteran major league baseball player is vastly overpaid. Why would reluctance to pay them suddenly kick in in 2018?
All of these guys would be signed if there were no luxury tax. Baseball is setting records for revenue, they are just penalized for spending it on players. I guarantee you teams like the Yankees and Dodgers (who have nearly unlimited resources) would gladly shell out the cash for a guy like Darvish or Arrietta if staying under the cap weren’t a consideration. Both of these teams have been willing to pay the tax in recent years, but the penalties grow exponentially for every consecutive year they stay over. Everyone is trying to stay under this year, in anticipation of going over next year when there are actual MVP type players available to the highest bidder.
There’s collusion between Government and big corporate business, it’s called Crony Capitalism. Why is collusion between Billionaire owners such a far fetched idea as to be so casually and frivolously tossed away. Talk about indoctrination…
Because there are way simpler explanations for this years slow moving free agent class. Every single guy who thinks they are worthy of a big contract this year has at least one major shortcoming.
Because unlike the collusion between gov’t and big business, MLB owners would be penalized for it. They got hit with huge fines in the 80’s for collusion, and for a group of people who care only about money I doubt they’d risk it again. Or at least it would be done without any proof.
The group think is everyone is too smart to accept such an easy answer.
Because anyone who understands baseball understands this is not anything like crony capitalism
Boras does the same song and dance. It’s common for Boras clients to hold out, late into the off-season, and Usually Boras gets what he wants.
However… This is special off-season, and 2018 FA class is going to be historic. (Barring Machado/Harper extensions)
This should get interesting, I’m excited boras vs mlb owners lol. Honestly I don’t really want to spend 125M+ on a DH (jd Martinez) who really only proved it for a year. Was he that much better than trumbo in his walk year (especially putting the juiced balls into account) ? The answer is no. So many instances of bust contracts, and he won’t outperform 125M as he ages into his 30s
These luxury tax rules doesn’t help, they actually encourage inactivity. (If a repeat luxury tax offender, like the NY Yankees, who paid luxury tax 15 straight years, total of $341 million paid…
…gets under $197MM this year…Then, rather than pay a whopping 50-percent tax as a multiple offender, NYY would get to reset the penalty clock, meaning zero tax this year and only 20 percent the next time they go over the Luxury tax.
There is no conspiracy. This is the reason.
As a point of reference, Luxury Tax is: $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $208 million in 2020, and $210 million in 2021.
“These luxury tax doesn’t (sic) help.”
Exactly, xabial. Well, sort of.
Simple question: What would happen if there were no salary cap/luxury tax at all, if teams were able to spend as much as they deemed appropriate without concern for a salary cap or an intentionally regressive luxury tax—you’d expect salaries to go up, right? Teams like the Yanquis, Trolley Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox would spend what they had to to sign the players they want and that couldn’t help but drive salaries up.
That’s the missing piece here, without the luxury tax acting as a drag on salaries there’s little doubt that players would be making more money. So, um, why should players subsidize small, bad and/or cheap owners?
The original rationale for a salary cap/luxury tax was the belief that small market teams wouldn’t be able to survive if they had to pay market rate player salaries. We now have forty plus years of data telling us that this isn’t true. There is no need or reason for players to continue subsidizing owners.
…but it is a 30 team sport and no one wants to see the Yankees win the World Series 15 times in a row (except Yankees fans).
The problem is not the salary cap, but the salary floor. Both should be in play, like in the NBA. There should be a minimum
owners have to spend on salaries to operate a team, and stiff penalties if they don’t. Then all teams will have to invest to compete.
This system will not be perfect, but having more exciting players and running out a competitive team will excite any sluggish fan base, I think, which leads to profits, which leads to happiness for all the capitalists.
Except the problem with that as an explanation is that the basic structure of escalating tax rates for multiple years over the tax threshold has been very similar since the 2002 CBA: a tax rate that starts low the first year over the tax (something like 17.5% to 20%; currently 20%) and then escalates over 3-4 years to something like 40% or 50% (currently 50% in year 3 and later).
What is new is the surtaxes that kick in for amounts $20 million or more over the tax line and then higher for amounts $40 million or more over the tax line. That could well have an impact, because the nature of big FA contracts is that they’re multi-year deals.
This article, however, did a very poor job of explaining that IMO. It focused on the aspect of the luxury tax that changed very little in the last CBA.
Boras has nothing to do with what the team offers or which team offers a deal. I like how he didn’t explain collusion at all but gave other choices that our forms of collusion. And back to Boras he doesn’t represent all the players and there are still alot of minor league players still unsigned so to blame players agents is a little silly. The lack of signing minor league contracts early says more about what teams are doing if those players were signed early and only the big players were not signed I might think it’s the agents but the slow pace is wide spread which the blame falls squarely on the teams low balling all players.
This makes no sense! Why would a team tie up 40 man roster spots with these deals when they are still waiting to see what the true market will
Be for actual players that can make a difference for them?
Oh squarely on the teams for low balling minor league players? Lol too funny
Yeah but now the players are throwing the word strike around.
Haha no one is throwing the word strike around at all. And they signed the CBA. There will be no potential strike for several years
Jansen is throwing the word around, but he’s kind of an idiot.
collusion is such a wild conspiracy theory. The logical answer is a combo of preparing for next years class, teams not wanting to go over tax, and tanking teams.
The logical answer is Players over estimating their value, and Scott Boras.
Those are additional factors… what both of you have said have played a factor in the slow moving offseason, with the Marlins fire sale being another, and the overall “blah” as far as impact players in their prime has played yet another… it’s a cumulation of all of these things
I think once Yu signs, the SP market settles rather quickly. Maybe not Cobb due to his absurd contract demands, but once Darvish signs, we should see some clarity. Like whoever loses out on Darvish competes for Arrieta, then Lynn and then the 2nd tier guys like Cashner, Jaime etc.
In terms of position players, most of the big guys are vastly overestimating their value (JD, Hoz, Moose) and thats holding up the rest of the market. Once that’s settled, the other guys sign.
The catchers market is really just down to Lucroy and Avila. Personally, I think Houston trades for Realmuto to move McCann to DH (which is an explanation for another time) leaving Washington a bit desperate. I could also see Milwaukee signing one to upgrade over Pina.
Holland may remain a free agent for a while. Honestly, I wouldnt be shocked if he didnt sign until May or June. With his injury history, complete 2nd half meltdown, draft pick comp and asking price financially, I wouldnt go anywhere near him.
What caused all this, in my opinion, was the simple low success rate of big contracts. When the top guys don’t get signed it holds up the market. Why would team A sign Andrew Cashner for $5-10m a year, when theres a possibility Darvish could be had at a reasonable cost or pillow deal (based on him not signing yet). I have a feeling this week will be rather busy.
I think teams realize they almost never get any excess valid out of signing someone to a massive deal and there is significant downside. The luxury tax plays a role for the big spenders, and rebuilding clubs aren’t going to spend heavily. Championships are won through the draft/ international pool now more than ever. Look at correa, altuve, springer, Bregman, etc. also paying guys for their 30’s is never ideal
Players (as well as a certain agent) are asking for too much money, especially considering that money doesn’t guarantee championships.
It’s more years than money… teams are getting smarter to the fact they don’t want to be paying 20 mill a year in a guys twilight years after he completely falls off a cliff
Good point. Its the years more then the money. The guaranteed long contracts. Players demanding too many years. The money is there. Good point jchiaratti
Not sure if you could select 2 but, I went with players overestimating their markets… Martinez is older (though the best hitter left IMO), Yu Tommy John and tipping pitches, Hosmer…..Hosmer. But, also the market next year I think is giving teams teams some pause. Why shell out tons on free agents with injury problems, age, or other problems when next year the crop is loaded with options and intrigue?
Yu ‘Tommy John’ underwent Tommy John March, 2015.
Yu’s TJ is Ancient news… His epic WS disaster, makes him the but of jokes… However… Yu will be entering his age-31 season, owns a career 3.42 ERA in MLB and has 6+ pitches!
“Yu Darvish threw 14,512 pitches that were tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2009 and 2017, including Regular Season, Postseason, World Baseball Classic”
“2017, he relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (95mph) and Slider (83mph), also mixing in a Sinker (94mph), Cutter (89mph) and Curve (73mph).”
“Yu also rarely threw a Change (88mph), Splitter (88mph).”
5-7 pitches in Yu’s arsenal. Can someone fix his tipping pitches? I don’t know if there’s more versatile SP — terms of Pitching repertoire — probably the best in MLB.
The “shelf life” of a SP following TJ surgery is about 6 seasons according to the analytics. This will be season 3 for Darvish after having it and he’ll be 31. He’s not going to get a 7 year deal. I think he wants to stay in LA. Why else would he turn down the Yankees offer (and a few others so far)? He wants to show he’s not that pitcher people saw in the WS. He did have good performances in the NLDS and NLCS before tanking and tipping in the WS (He couldn’t effectively throw his slider, his out pitch, different ball?). If anyone can “fix” his tipping it would be the best pitching coach in MLB, Rick Honeycutt. Darvish in LA wouldn’t have to worry about being the man, Kershaw is already here, he’d be able to work with Honeycutt, he’d be on a WS contender, this FO has given up one of their coveted prospects for him so they don’t want to look bad, he could redeem himself. But he can’t sign for all that money since the Dodgers want to stay under the cap you say? He signs at a discount and earns more in endorsements with the big Japanese market in LA to make up the difference
That’s a lot of good facts on Yu. Crazy that he uses that many pitches in a game. Just my personal opinion though I see a lot of guys go through TJ more than once I wouldn’t consider signing him unless he would change his throwing motion a bit. And obviously, few players (especially those about to get a big payday regardless) would do so.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel there’s a little bit of all of these involved in the slow offseason.
“…let’s begin by rejecting the idea that just one factor is at play in this undertaking. “
It was in the introductory paragraph. Pretty much everyone would agree that it’s a multitude of factors.
You are correct, I read the article just before bed last night and probably skimmed the beginning until the options. Had I known that I probably wouldn’t have even commented.
But you cannot have a little collusion. Its collusion or its not. And if it was there would be hell to pay
Maybe it’s just me but I feel like it’s a bit of all of these reasons.
All except collusion that is
There’s a change in thinking around the league that if you’re not expecting to make the playoffs, you’re rebuilding. And if you’re rebuilding, why buy a bunch of veteran talent? It doesn’t have that much impact at the gate if you’re losing games anyway – the fans aren’t fooled.. And if only half the league has any real hope of making the playoffs, the market for free agents is cut in half.
An excellent way for down teams to rebuild is to sign mid-level FA’s, then trade them to desperate contenders at the trade deadline for prospects.
It’s been an interesting idea for some time, but I really can’t think of a situation that any team has successfully utilized it.
Back when the Pirates were also bad and “rebuilding”, they would frequently try the strategy, but it never amounted to anything. Perhaps, they were just horrible at talent assessment or broke prospects regularly, but that’s still just the only example of attempt I can think of.
Do you know if any situations in which a team was successfully doing this to aid in a rebuild?
The Philllies tried this several times the last 3 – 4 seasons. I don’t think it worked out even half the time.
The Braves kept signing and then trading Kelly Johnson to the Mets for, like, 8 years in a row. I don’t know if they ever got anything useful for him.
It’s and excellent way, but the player has to be a value otherwise you’re essentially in salary dump land… too often teams are paying above market rates for mediocre aging talent and it’s tough to flip a James shields, Yovani Gallardo, etc… ‘tis why the relief market keeps moving… reliever don’t typically require the length of contract position players and starters do and as long as they aren’t a total zero, relievers can always be flipped at the deadline for future assets
Good point. The sign and flip. The Cubs did that for a few years.
Owners that put offers out there should say this only sits until pitchers and catchers report
After that duces
These contracts are insane. They owners should push more for incentive based contracts plus a base rate. If you don’t perform you don’t get
It’s criminal how much MLB players earn compared to the NFL.
I have no problem with the buyers market emerging, nor should ANYONE else who believes in philosophically and understands the economics of Free Agency.
This is a non story. It’s just a market dynamic influenced by All of The Above factors.
How many players are there is an NFL team? Have you seen the NBA. M. Conley will earn 32mm next year I Believe and they only play 82 games. Before saying players are earning too much, we need to see how much money owners are making.
“Before saying players are earning too much, we need to see how much money owners are making.”
I truly hate this argument. Fans always point out this is a business, right? So it is. CEOs and higher ups always make the most money because they run the company. That’s how it works. I work for a company and I get x amount of dollars. I don’t compare how much I make to how much the owner of the company makes because I’m an employee. I am paid by what the market dictates or what I’m willing to work for. If I want to compare how much I make to an owner I should start my own company.
I hate that I’m defending owners here, but frankly management take massive risks with guaranteed contracts that pay athletes an obscene amount of money, generally for a loss in the end. Think of a company that pays an employee millions and constantly sees that employee underperform in compared to other employees. Does anyone think it’s fair that the Angels are paying Pujols $28 million a year? No, right? Because the Angels management were fools to give him a contract that high. It was bad business.
I agree, if I was an owner I would only offer incentive based contracts for high priced players. Prove it for pay !
The biggest problem with the market is people’s unrealistic expectations. Some people here are not going to be happy unless the entire major league roster changes uniforms on a daily basis. Spring Training has not even started yet. Nothing has been affected by these players not signing yet. The sky is not falling Chicken Little.
Now if players continue to be unsigned by the time March rolls around, perhaps there is a problem. But for now, just sit back and relax.
I agree with hiflew. The players will get signed or the majority of them at least.
I think the problem is JD isn’t a proven player for 125M, Yu got shelled in the playoffs and is an injury prone 31 year old, Arrieta is losing velocity and is 31, Hosmer wants 7 years and no one is going to make that mistake again
Exactly. When has any organization ever said, “Thank GOD we signed that guy to a seven year contract!”
First off everyone in prison will tell you they are innocent. Declaration of innocence is not evidence. LOL
Second, MLB has paid out millions after being caught or accused of collusion on 4 separate occasions.
Third, MLB is a legal cartel whose owners meet secretly several times a year. Led by a new commissioner who began his tenure with MLB during the collusion 80’s
Fourth, FA spending since Manfred took over has went from 2.4 billion to 1.4 billion to 700 million.
Anyone not voting collusion is just A SAD creature
Sorry, out of all these choices… collusion
Is the LAST Poll option feature
I’d vote for :/
I voted collusion, but I’d probably lean towards: thirty billionaires all independently reaching similar conclusions, as capitalists are incentivized to do with all assets, prioritizing profit maximization above all else. The competitive balance tax, and financial hardship from ‘small markets’, just provides a handy excuse to sell to the public as an immense disincentive to spending.
So… You voted collusion even though you think it’s coalescence?
So you vote collusion while admitting its not?
What’s SAD is your tin foil hat lunacy ! It’s not collusion! It’s just being smarter with analytics !
If it was collusion , there wouldn’t be ANY players signing big contracts!
I feel like it’s a combination of the “Coalescence of Player Evaluation” and players overestimating their markets. They’re directly related. Scott Boras, of course, has a lot to do with those estimations. If you add those 3 choices together you have over half of the votes on the poll. I think there’s your answer.
Boras is responsible for a large number of the dead money contracts that players have signed.
Ellsbury, A-Rod and others. He’s been great at getting his guys paid, but management has figured out that if deals are too long they hurt competitiveness as much in the long run as they help in the short run – so you basically have contacts that really don’t add any wins to a teams future.
Look what the combo of the lux tax and Ellsbury deal have done to the Yankees: IMHO they’d be a major player for Darvish if they didn’t have Ellsbury’s albatross hung around their necks.
Golly geez, Scott, excuse front offices for finally doing a little math. .
Boras is like a drug dealer standing on the street corner crying foul because all his customers are in rehab.
If you believe in analytics, and clearly most of baseball has been trending to this intelligent strategy, then the answer is clear.
1) Teams are going to invest in on field results + off field return on their investment. If a player brings both, team marketability AND expected performance, huge contracts will be given.
2) Overpay contracts don’t hurt the team. We all know that baseball ownership will survive a bad contract. However, a bad contract DOES hurt the fan. Owners will find ways to recover mistakes through parking fees, ticket prices, food and beverage, team gear, etc… Simple market economics – as fans don’t come to games, one must find ways to bring fans back. Raise the game price experience by investing in players who won’t return on field or off field value? That would be dumb.
3) So on field and off field analytics. With years of data from the previous Free Agents team, and historical data on Free Agent returns. This all leads to intelligence. And apparently, Boras, players and several other agents are not adapting to clear market signals.
4) That is all. The perfect storm. Acceptable Free Agents seeking more than the market allows. Agents inability to read said market in an analytics world. Owners actually looking out for fans in game day ticket prices. And I can’t believe I just said that. But avoiding that bad contract really does help the fan…
Owners will always charge as much as their fans are willing pay no matter what they’re spending on payroll.
MLB should adopt the way salary and team control is constructed in the NHL.
Since I don’t have any knowledge of (ice) hockey whatsoever: What are the main differences in the salary and team control structures in the NHL?
Three words: Brutal. Strict. Low!!!
2010 Devils had a 17 year $102M contract with a player, rejected by the league because “It circumvented the NHL Salary cap” by artificially lowering AAV —paying him $11.5M Year-1 and $550,000 final five years, for a $6M annual cap hit for 17 years. (NHL Calculation for cap hit, literally identical to MLB’s Luxury Tax ,AAV)
2017 NHL Salary Cap: Currently $75M..
It’s that strict, teams really have to do that with NHL contracts.
The second contract proposal: 15 year $100M was accepted by the league… Just another day in the NHL
Hard salary cap, hard floor. Players become RFA’s with arb rights after 3 years and UFA after 7 years. Contracts cannot be renegotiated. The AAV of the contract determines the cap hit (so none of the NFL style fudging when it comes to cap management).
There also needs to be a salary floor, and the salary cap needs to come down some. It’s a bit ridiculous.
I’d say it has a lot to do with the low success rate of big contracts. Front offices have finally come to grips with the burden of these long-term commitments, and now they are showing discipline by not spending big for the sake of making a splash.
Also, this class isn’t really loaded with superstars with long track records of high production (like a Pujols or Cano or Scherzer). That means the available players probably are overvaluing themselves somewhat—although, J.D. Martinez has a strong argument for seeking big money. At first glance, maybe it would seem that Darvish and Arrieta could demand big money, but their best days appear to be behind them, and they really aren’t significantly more desirable than several other FA pitchers still available.
I think it would be interesting to see teams offer shorter contracts but with higher AAV. If you don’t want to give a 31-year-old a six-year contract, offer three or fours, but entice him with with more money. (Hypothetical: Boston offers Martinez $100 million over three years.) On a team’s payroll, the higher AAV of these short-term contracts would be comfortably accommodated by the absence of the hefty long-term contracts of aging veterans.
One theory I don’t buy is that teams are waiting for next year’s free-agent class. Not many teams would realistically be in the running for Harper or Machado, so I can’t imagine too many teams gearing up for a run at one of these two.
Players are over estimating their value (mostly Boras clients).
Teams seem to have set values for what they are willing to pay each FA they are interested in. If the player does not want to sign for that, so be it. I have a hard time as a regular working guy, feeling bad for someone who wants $25m a year, and won’t sign for $20m a year.
I also think next year FA class is causing this years class a number of problems. Why spend huge money on JDM when you could make a run at Machado or Harper next year?
This is the result of a lack of competitive balance. Just the fact that this sentence was in the article – “Because over a dozen teams are already eliminated from the running due to their market size (and resulting income)” – Says it all.
Its a combination of a lot of these things that are in the poll.
MN Twins – “Washington Generals”
SD Padres – “Washington Generals”
PIT Pirates – “Washington Generals”
TB Rays – “Washington Generals”
MIA Marlins – “Washington Generals”
BAL Orioles – “Washington Generals”
CIN Reds – “Washington Generals”
DET Tigers – “Washington Generals”
OAK A’s – “Washington Generals”
KC Royals – “Washington Generals”
MIL Brewers – “Washington Generals”
NY Mets – WTF???
Those KC Royals who you label as Washington Generals just recently won a World Series 2 years ago! Small market teams that are run right can still win it all!
So Neftali Feliz, Brian Duerring, Emgelb Vielma (which is an odd case of sign and trade when he has been waiting for 4 months for a team to sign him) etc etc etc are any of these players over estimating there value. It’s real easy for lazy writers to not explain correctly and allow the fan base to be kept ignorant of exactly what is happening. The top players our gonna sign big contracts but the little players all the way up to everyday players like Alcides Escobar taking a 1 year 2.5 deal and no team offered more. Something is happening and we our not being given the information to even guess at why it’s been a cold stove.
The lazy writer just gave ya 8 reasons, with a detailed explanation on each reason, lol.
Escobar has a 0.9 WAR for the last 3 years combined, including a 0 WAR in 2017. What do you think Market value is for a player who’s no better than the Utility guy in the bench? $2.5 M was probably generous vs playing Mondesi Full time
1 war is worth 9m .3 war is worth 3m Escobar is underpaid in 2016 let alone 2018 . In 2016 1war was worth 8.6m I don’t know what it will be worth for 2018. A 0 war player value is higher then one thinks as well since that is a perfectly average player.
5% of people voted for collusion, which means 5% of people don’t know what it means.
That’s actually pretty good for this day and age.
Most of those votes came from employees within the Boras Agency.
The international talent supply has lessened the need for some teams to acquire free agents.
Pretty obvious to me. Boras likes to wait and use other like free agent contracts to his clients’ benefit, that is part of it. I think some teams interested in Martinez are holding off because they are more interested in pitching. So we have Martinez waiting for Arietta and Darvish to sign, because teams that miss out on them may spend that money on a slugger instead.
Meanwhile, Arietta, a Boras client, is waiting on Darvish to sign so he can squeeze every last dime out of a potential suitor. So, that points us to the publicity seeking Yu Darvish.
Darvish is enjoying his moment in the spotlight as he loves to stir the pot and fuel the speculation. Holding up the rest of the market toying with the media. SO…either Boras will cave and let Arietta sign, or Darvish, which I believe, will end his publicity stunt and sign. Either way, when one if those 2 scenarios happen, all the domino’s will fall.
Definitely it’s that players have over estimated their market value.
Scott Boras is the greatest contributor to that.
It’s because Mike Ilitch passed away and the Tigers are starting a rebuild. They were usually a good bet to overpay for a Boras FA every offseason that would either start the market or bail it out. I’m somewhat joking, but I do think that with 75% of the league in somewhat of a “non-contending” mode and the lack of quality FA the past few years has a part to play in this tepid offseason.
I think it’s because most teams dont want to lose the draft pick that Is associated with most of the free agents.
Supply & Demand. Economics 101.
The talent level in the MLB right now is nuts. Many of the contending teams are so stacked. Talented prospects around the league are blocked, stuck in AAA. The high supply of talent available means less cost to attain the talent. We’re not going to see huge bidding wars when it’s not the only path to success. If teams weren’t sitting on an excess of talented players possibly available for trade the free agent market would be crazy. Combine that with a stubbornly patient Boras, advanced metrics, and the increasing adoption of complete rebuilds and there you have it.
Yep. There are 750 MLB jobs (before September roster expansion). Sure, the top 500 or so players are probably head and shoulders above the rest, but after that there are probably another 700-1,000 who are close in ability to fill those remaining jobs.
Supply exceeds demand.
Enjoyed reading this – and I think it’s a combination of all, except collusion. Some players are asking too much and most teams have embraced new thinking and analytics, especially after the Cubs, royals, Astros, and Indians.
Build prospects for a few yrs and spend on the draft, international, then start spending more. And what everyone is seeing is it works….. But, I’m not sure if Boras (who always takes players late into the off-season) could see it at this level……and wonder if he’s a little taken off guard and could therefore learn from this himself? If he will adapt – if the league continues to adapt more so in yrs to come?
I also will add to my other comments, that with all the combinations of factors, there’s also this trend, where we’re starting to see alot of younger GM’s around the league who think alike and they start by getting the budget under control first. Then add younger managers who communicate well with younger players and they think analytically about all the ways of situational advantage. They know they can do this now like the Cubs, like the Astros –
Next, the Phillies, white Sox, braves, reds, etc are the next batch of possible winners under these new trends.
Another minor issue is player preference which is somewhat related to tanking..Brian Duensing supposedly had a 10 million offer but wanted to play with the Cubs. He has this 10 mil offer sitting in front of him while he is hoping that the Cubs will come up or match and they don’t so he finally just takes their offer because that is where he wants to go.
Dexter Fowler’s last two free agent off seasons are another issue. Players might be thinking they can do what he did. Accept a pillow contract for the team he wants to play for to get a ring and then come back the next year and get his contract. I thought the Cards really over payed last year and they had too many outfielders this off season. It will be interesting to see how that contract evolves.
“Being that this is such a dark subject (and incredibly unlikely), we won’t spend any more time looking at it.”
Gosh, won’t somebody lay off these poor billionaires and give them the benefit of the doubt?
lmao at all you authority loving bootlickers blaming the players
Hardly surprising the fans would blame the players and agents as the primary factor. But if it was truly players asking too much, wouldn’t that be correlated with a coalescing of player evaluation? Think many front offices are evaluating players similarly, especially with the greater emphasis on analytics that has led to a sort of group think, an almost accidental collusion. Particularly a focus on surplus value has resulted in a greater valuation of prospects than more expensive free agents.
Long term investment in players who have passed their prime has always been a bad idea. Management is finally starting to realize that. My guess is that arbitration will begin a year sooner in the next union contract.
At this point, the word “collusion” means “I have no idea how the world works.”
At this point, not mentioning collusion “means” you have no idea how the world works.
No one uses carrier pigeons anymore. Is that “collusion”? Or did people just collectively find better forms of communication?
Everything that has happened this offseason has been a rational, and in many cases predictable, response to the various factors listed above, in particular the luxury tax and the number of teams not trying to win.
Teams don’t want to pay mediocre players huge contracts anymore.
Everything but collusion are legitimate possibilities. There are so many different factors. But at the end of the day, Boras seems to be the biggest one.
It always amazes me that baseball fans side with the owners. Those are the guys who got your municipality to use your tax dollars for a stadium. They are the ones with incredibly favorable tax treatment, and the ones who set the prices for every beer and brat you buy.
I’m going to vote for the CBT with a little soft collusion/smart strategy going on, but not in the traditional sense of collusion. The wealthy teams don’t want to breach the threshold, and they look around and see that no-one else is rushing to meet the top-tier player asks, so why do it? And they have held together on the tanking issue, keeping quiet and subsidizing the tankers, even for extended periods. They aren’t doing this out of charity, but because they see this, in the long run, as a way to improve profitability through lower industry player costs.
It always amazes me when baseball fans think they are siding with “the little guy” by worrying about ballplayers and baseball salaries.
If you want to be concerned about undercompensated labor, teachers have to buy their own school supplies and soldiers risk their lives across the globe for about what a Burger King assistant manager makes.
I’m not going to lose any sleep if JD Martinez gets ONLY $100 million instead of $200 million to hit a ball with a wooden stick.
I’m not losing sleep over JD Martinez’s checkbook either. But what’s your feeling about an underfunded school system that also just ponied up for a free pleasure palace? My point is there’s plenty of blame to spread around.
What generates more revenue for schools ultimately?
A pro sports team even with tax subsidies, etc or having NO pro sports team?
The end result of the revenues, and thus taxes, generated by pro sports teams directly or indirectly (hotels, restaurants, bars, tourism, etc.) far outweigh the tax breaks given to them. Schools benefit from this.
There is a reason that every city that ever lost a pro sports team has almost immediately tried to get another team to replace it.
This is wrong. See what has happened to Seattle since the Sonics moved to OKC.
Most research indicates that the costs of bidding for and retaining sports teams exceeds the benefits to the taxpayer. Politicians have a different agenda.
Seattle has been trying to get another NBA team since and is likely to get an NHL team soon.
You are incorrect. Being against my team handing out long term contracts that hurt my team’s competitiveness is not siding with the owners.
I saw my Phillies spend tens of millions of dollars on Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee – money they couldn’t spend on other players that could have made the team more competitive.
Sorry, but I want to watch competitive baseball, not read websites that tell me how much dead money my team has on the books.
I side on the side of watching a winning team – not with the players or owners.
I understand that, and I knew when I posted I’d get a lot of down votes. But how do you feel about tanking? And if watching a winning team is the goal (and it should be) something has to give–do the players have to go back to year-to-year deals, does the Reserve System have to be restored? Long term contracts tie the player to the team as well as the team to the player.
That’s a good example of 2 contracts where injuries were the reason those contracts went bad ! You can’t predict injuries ! So a lot of times these big contracts are gambles! That’s why the teams are leaning more on the analytics and thus the depressed market!
The Howard contract was panned the day it was announced – a year and a half before it kicked in, and over a year before he got hurt. In Philly we knew even then that you don’t sign guys like that to those kinds of deals.
And BTW one of the big reasons not to sign older player to megadeals is because of injury risk.
Kind of difficult to have a system based on spending limits when some teams aren’t interested in spending any money. Yet further proof that Trickle Down Economics is bullshit.
I think it’s a mix of a few things. First, I think some teams aren’t willing to give guys like J.D. Martinez $200 million, or other guys like that what they’re asking. This plays into the luxury tax, and teams wanting to save money for next year’s free agent class.
The reality is that this free agent class is suffering because of a half dozen very significant factors that simply eliminate almost all demand this year. No demand means no bidders and no reason for a team that is shopping to bid against themselves. If there was collusion it would be a lot worse because no one is motivated to spend a lot of money and most teams have good players they would sell for less than their free agent equivalent cost.
if you go to an auction and no one is bidding do you raise your hand to bid? Do you then bid again? If you know what you’re doing you don’t even make the first bid until someone else bids. You wait for the price to drop and the only thing that should prompt you to bid is the risk of not being able to fill a need. That fear doesn’t exist for anyone. In fact, anyone looking to make a long term investment in an elite player is better off waiting until next year’s class.
The biggest fallacy is that prices are supposed to be anywhere in free agency. Inflation is not automatic and you’re only worth what someone is willing to pay. Clubs have paid a premium for top talent in the past but this year doesn’t have top talent. Free agent contracts aren’t handed out based on a grading curve and teams don’t automatically pay pretty good players top dollar for years they will probably be too old to be productive. Sometimes you can create that level of urgency in an auction but when you pass a new CBA that makes this the year for teams to get under the tax you take the big spending teams out of the market & you eliminate most of your demand for the year. It’s really pretty simple.
You could simply look at how much less the Dodgers and Yankees payrolls will be this year as there really is less money to go around.
The mistake made was agents not signing very large one year pillow contracts because we’re now at the point where teams are thinking bargain. A couple of pillow contracts earlier could have restarted the market but I think the mindset has shifted too much.
I love your analogy of an auction because it is so spot on.
yeah good take man. it wont be like this every year but unless they dropped guaranteed contracts and allowed for teams to get out from under certain contracts, we might see this again. maybe adopting a rule the nba has or had where each team is allowed an exception on 1 player where they still have to pay the player but that players contract doesnt count against the luxury tax threshold
So Cain should have turned down the Brewers offer like he did the Dodgers offer and took a pillow contract?
Great point. Adding the fact that if a player gets a 6 year versus a 1 year his agent doesn’t have to work so hard. Some players are being led down a long road with no guarantee of getting the amount they are seeking and as the season draws near that extra money has been spent and those players without contract will lower their auction amount and previous offers will be pulled off the table only to be lowered more.
Slow offseason come on people pitchers and catchers report in a couple weeks so relax. Why does it matter to you whether or not anyone signs?
Boras and players over valuing themselves. Probably the former has something to do w the former. Hosmer is sooooo fortunate to be in this class. He’d be like maybe the 10th best player next year? And he hasn’t jumped at a 7 year offer??
Draft picks and International spending money are also lost if you go over the CBTax!! And teams are realizing Draft picks are worth zillions…
Teams that are tanking shouldn’t get revenue sharing money
I agree Yankeepatriot, 100%!
I selected players overvaluing themselves. However, that’s only half of my thought. Teams “undervaluing” them is the other half. By “undervaluing” them, I don’t mean to infer that they believe they’re not as good as they are; I mean that they know EXACTLY how good they are, and they know they can do almost as good, or just as good, by looking elsewhere for a HECK of a lot less money–and in some cases–more control.
I do think teams will cave, though, ultimately, and give them more than they’re worth. I just believe teams have been looking hard for ways to avoid spending the money before wasting the money on overpriced players that they’ll undoubtedly regret paying for in a few years.
There is one big area that I think is overlooked that is killing free agency: 2nd Wildcard (which seems counter-intuitive).
We just had playoffs last year where 2 teams made it in despite being 17 games off the division lead.
And the Twins made it in with just 85 wins. Getting in with a small amount of wins isn’t completely new, but it used to be that you had to win a weak division to do that, which means it only affected those few teams in a division. Now, there’s a chance for every team in the League to possibly do that.
Many will say, with more chances to get into the playoffs, MORE teams should be fighting for free agents, not less. But, I think teams are realizing that they have a pretty good shot without adding anybody.
I imagine that most teams, as constructed can win 75 games. And then there is a +/- 10 game swing based on how a season goes. If the team stays healthy, has a couple of good winning streaks, and maybe a breakout or 2, they can get to 85 wins. Injuries, underperforming players, a few bad streaks and they could be looking at 65 wins.
So, I think a lot of GMs are starting to say, “why add this $20m guy who doesn’t guarantee anything? Let’s go with what we have, and see where we are in July. We only need to be slightly over .500 to be in the race”
Now, this would lead to the assumption that July should be bigger than ever. But, I think once July rolls around, the GMs now are saying, “well, let’s go with what got us here.” I think we’re going to start seeing that the only teams that really are going to add a lot at the deadline in the future will be teams with big division leads, that want to put the pedal to the floor to guarantee they stay there.
I think these reasons explain a lot of it. Teams are happy to fail for a year or two in order to win long term. It combines the upside of playing young talent and letting them develop with increased revenues and a brighter future.
Furthermore, fans are becoming more and more willing to watch their team struggle while developing young talent as opposed to watching their team waste money on big name free agents and increase the cost of attending games in order to watch “Stars” of yesteryear under-perform..
It’s easier to sell hope on an unknown than it is to try to necromance past greatness out of an aging and expiring commodity.
That last line was a good one.
The Tax is probably the biggest factor, when you combine it with the talent availabble next winter.
But there’s an option missing here. It may not be the “major factor” for the 2017-18 off-season, but it’s been coming…….and nobody is talking about it. Maybe it’s because it sounds like it attacks a certain group, but it isn’t intended to do that…..not by any means.
With the plethora of International Signings over the last 5-7 years…..there are fewer openings for players that enter FA (compared to the availability 5 years ago). The Player Pool has grown, but there are still just 1200 40-man roster spots to fill. The Tampa Bay Rays ALONE have signed 130 International players since 2012.
The Market Is Getting Flooded. Granted this hurts the lower-tiered players the most, but even the middle-tier player has to be feeling the pinch.
Economics 101 = Supply & Demand
More players mean less opportunity. More players means “Supply Is Beating Demand”. When that happens……Prices Fall. The Elite will still get paid…..but the rest will have to lower expectations. Shouldn’t be such a big deal……$15 Million would set up most families for several lifetimes……never mind what $80 Million would do.
Teams are getting better value by trading players over the winter and filling their needs. This has cut down the supply of places to go. Since their are less holes to fill,teams are not going after players at the price they thought they would get.. This could be a trend in baseball, it will hurt most free agents except for the elite players like Harper, Machado, and Donaldson.I think teams are also staying away from long term contracts for players 30 or over.
To me the biggest reason HAS to be teams not prioritizing winning because it leads to almost all the other possible issues. Case and point:
Agent Scott Boras = If more teams were trying to win, there would be a greater need for his guys. It’s simple supply and demand.. Why should the Red Sox rush to sign JDM when there is literally no other team after him?
Coalescence of Player Evaluation – Some good players aren’t getting offers at all because of supply and demand…..
Focus on Next Year’s Class – I doubt 100+ free agents aren’t signed because three expensive names are available next year. For instance the Mets aren’t in on any major free agent ever… so why would they not sign Moose to play 3B because Machado will be a free agent?
Apathy Towards Free Agency – The only reason teams wouldn’t want to sign players to plug holes would be if plugging holes wasn’t a priority. Hence winning…..
Lack of Effort to Win = BINGO WAS HIS NAME-OH. Not only are teams tanking, but most non-tanking teams are content with being competitive. Seeing the 200 million dollar mess in Washington punt each year might be an influence. .
Players Overestimating Their Markets – Happens every year. In this case it’s THE market, not their market,
The Competitive Balance Tax = Not effecting 27 teams
Collusion = Too stupid to happen again in it’s legal form
Other = I’ll toss this one out there: Tony Clark. I guess since he’s a minority, everyone is afraid to say this, but he clearly s-ks as a union negotiator. The CBA is an embarrassing mess that he agreed to. Why the players would have an ex-jock negotiating with a greasy lawyer who looks like the Riddler is beyond me. I’m sure creepy Tony Clark is a fine dude, but what about… I don’t know…. maybe not having the players represent themselves in negotiations?
Baseball reflects society so well. Money, greed and power… Scott Boras has the mind of an owner. Blaming Scott Boras without also pointing a finger at the ownership group is a whole lot of cognitive dissonance.
Boras works for the players so insert blame for these players. Boras can’t make a player sign or not sign with a team…
Lol they used a pic of Martinez on the Tigers
I both study and work in finance/economics. I would bet many monies that the luxury tax is the main culprit here.
long term contracts don’t produce value for duration wasn’t a choice?
It is not just 1 thing, but it is a combination of many.
1. The changes to the luxury tax.
2. Next years class.
3. The players over valuating themselves.
4. Big players (LA, SF and NY) not in the game.
It’s all of the above! There is at least one team for each reason stated in this article. So there isn’t just one reason. Yankees and Dodgers want to get under the luxury tax. Other teams don’t want to be competitive. Others, analytics says the FA are on the decline and dont want to commit to long contracts, etc etc.
I think it’s a combination of teams knowing longterm contracts for players over 30 never work out, and advanced statistics that show that a lot of players in this year’s class are very flawed. It’s definitely all of the above though.
What’s a shame is teams “ rebuilding “ – yet we still have to pay MLB prices. Shouldn’t we get a reduced rebuilding ticket? Just saying…
could stop a lot of the rebuilding by implementing a minimum payroll to go with a cap. must spend, say $120 million
The slow moving market is due to the players being fools. For so long they were the best, holding the owners hostage with the best and strongest union in the world. For 50 years they were led by lawyers whose only concern was the bottom line. Now they’re led by a former player who has other priorities, and doesn’t understand the long-term implications in their most recent CBA. Players gave up a lot—hard caps on the draft and international markets, etc.—in order to get “better” things (I’ve read a clubhouse chef was a priority). And now the luxury tax is more restrictive as well.
The players goofed, believing that the new penalties the owners pushed in would not be detrimental to overall spending. And what players and their agents need to realize is that teams are not required to spend every dollar they make, and are permitted to generate profits—as big as they want. The only way to force teams to spend money is to implement a floor…but that comes with a ceiling, an actual salary cap.
I think it’s the teams are realizing how stupid these extra long term contracts are and they aren’t working out. Reluctancy to drop big money long term for not “big name” guys. Hosmer and JD aren’t superstars but they want superstar money
Nice summary, it is a lot of different factors, some, like the CBT tax, will be with us for awhile. Also not a lot of demand by spending teams to buy what is on the market, and really, no marquee free agents either. I love JD Martinez and what he did in a Tigers uniform. But no way, as an owner, would pay anything close to what Bora$$ is asking for his services.
Another big reason is what the new analytics has brought to the process. The math shows that high $$ free agents don’t pay off all that well in the long term. Thus, a lot more teams are going to try to build from within, adding a high priced talent at the right time in an attempt to win it all. Cubs and Astros did just that and it paid off.. And don’t forget the Royals, who followed the same blueprint. So yes, that will be followed now by many teams. My Tigers spent well beyond their means for years because of a desire to win for an aging owner. And while we had a good run, we never did grab the bass ring. Now the Tigers join a large number of teams trying to follow that blueprint.
But please, stop calling it tanking. Tanking means intentionally losing individual games in order to gain something in the short term, like losing a lot in September in order to gain the first pick in the draft. What the Tigers and so many other teams are doing is rebuilding, sacrificing short term gains to improve financial health and for long term gain. Businesses do that all the time, and it is smart business.
I needed an “All of the above.”
Never thought I would say it but maybe it’s time for DH in both leagues so we have enough offense
The problem is that these clowns keep insisting on crazy-long deals. If Darvish or Arrieta would agree to a 3 year deal then they’d get huge-money deals. Nobody is going to give Arrieta who is rapidly declining a 5-7 year deal AND a huge salary. It’s nuts and everybody finally knows it. It only took one stupid team in the past to bid against themselves to drive up the market. There aren’t any truly stupid teams any longer.
It’s been evident for years that the free agent marking has been changing. we have seen multiple players over the last several years searching for a large multi year deal that in the end sign a 1 yr deal. the owners and gm..are getting smarter with their money. prices in any business can’t go up forever..
Analytics tell us that…
…it’s usually a bad idea to purchase more than 5 free agent years.
…this current crop of FA are very good but not franchise-changing superstars.
…there are lots of ways to obtain good players and build quality rosters outside of signing big name FA.
The other thing is, the big money big market teams have no longer been blindly throwing money about like Jolly Ranchers at a parade. They still use their financial wherewithal but they are much more calculated. Part of that is the tighter luxury tax system but more so I think they learned small market lessons about drafting, developing, and trading smart … so they know they don’t NEED the cash to be effective.
Two more factors…
1) Teams are starting to get nervous that the next round of local TV deals won’t be as lucrative as the last round due to cord cutting.
2) The aging curve in baseball keeps getting steeper. As velocity increases, this figures to only increase. It’s one thing for a 33-36 year old to hit 92 mph fastballs. Hitting 98 is another story.
There’s another major reason for the slow-down: the fundamental philosophical shift about how to win in MLB over the long-haul, a shift that places greater value on drafting and developing than on signing FAs. Maybe this sounds obvious on the surface, but the reality is that the entire industry has been transformed by money-ball-style analytics, as demonstrated by the Red Sox, Cubs, and now Astros. From a business perspective, creating a long-term, cost-efficient talent pipeline (and then supplementing that pipeline with an occasional high-priced FA) is a much better model than creating a dependency upon agents. My point: the entire industry has shifted to adopt to this model. The day of the FA will never go away, but it certainly isn’t what it was five years ago.
Don’t tell Lorenzo Cain. He just got wildly wealthy.
Yeah that’s true, but that was a team talking themselves into a bad deal. The GM should be fired for that deal.
I think that it’s primarily a combination of just about everything listed in the article with things like the CBT and analytics weighing heavy in the discussion. Teams are probably realizing that long term contracts – even when they supply surplus value up front – are detrimental to the team in the long run. Paying a player $25-$30M for -2 WAR in the last few years (or more) of his contract is just not smart when those same dollars can get you 2-3 players with +1 – +3 WAR. In the next few years we may see a shift to ridiculous annual salaries but contract lengths of only 3-4 years.
The next CBA is going to be a mess and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a strike or a lockout. Players will look for the CBT to be changed or eliminated but will probably settle for one less year of team control (after asking for 2). I’m fine with keeping the CBT, but I think MLB also needs to implement a minimum payroll for teams. If teams go below that they don’t receive any revenue sharing or small market compensation AND they pay a penalty.
Last year only 3 players got 5 year deals and only 1 player signed for more than $86 million. The free agents weren’t that good but there’s no reason to think this is a 1 year thing.
How many players who signed big money, long term contracts in the past many years actually earned the money they got? Very few. How many times have teams wished they could get out from under those contracts after only a year or two? Quite a few. Maybe they are finally learning.
Combo of everything except collusion. Big spenders like the Dodgers trying to reset their luxury tax penalty, Boras, players on the wrong side of 30 thinking they are worth what they want, a lot of teams rebuilding.
I looked up all the players who’ve completed $100 million deals in the last 7 years. There were 25 players. The ages the deals covered varied, but all of them were in the deal at ages 32 and 33 and only 2 weren’t in it at age 34.
Only 13 of the 25 had 2.0 WAR or greater at age 32. Six of them had 4.0 WAR or higher. Eight of them had 0.3 WAR or less. The average was 2.4 WAR.
Only 8 of the 25 had 2.0 WAR or greater at age 33. Five of them had 4.0 WAR or higher. Eleven had 0.6 WAR of less. The average WAR was 1.9.
Only 8 of the 23 had 2.0 WAR or greater at age 34. Five of them had 4.0 WAR or higher. Nine had 0.7 WAR of less. The average WAR was 1.8
Only 7 of the 19 had 2.0 WAR or greater at age 35. Five of them had 3.9 WAR or higher. 11 of the 19 had 0.8 WAR or less. The average was 1.6.
I don’t think any of those years were good buys on average. Signing a player past age 31 is risky, but going past age 34 is really risky.
Scott Boras hates you!
1. Teams with needs were able to simply trade for talent at a cheaper rate, therefore less suitor.
2. too much information out there for teams to bid against themselves as they have in the past.
3. Yankees, Dodgers and red sox are not major players, driving whole market down in dollars.
4. Only 1 or 2 are difference makers and they are not sure things. So why pay it, at worst you offer and they reject a number your comfortable with.
5. The cain signing blows any collusion talk out of the water.
I’ve noticed a lot of empty seats around the mlb, I’m sure the owners have noticed too.
You might be looking at the wrong stadiums.
Maybe, I’m able to watch a lot of game thru mlbtv and the number of empty seats is scary. Just sayin, another reason for owners to tap on the brakes.
Here’s the issue, it’s a combination of factors, and several of these options go together. It is absolutely the Competitive Balance Tax, first and foremost. Big spending teams are working to reset their tax threshold, partially because they don’t want to be taxed at 90% for every dollar over $197M and partially because it will allow them to spend more freely next year when the free agent class is much better. Because of the tight-fistedness agents like Boras and most players are over valuing their market. The market doesn’t perpetually just got up and up, this is a down turn in the market and it’s likely for only one year. That happens. There are bad free agent classes just as much as bad draft classes. This then comes to the point that, maybe, FOs are finally waking up to the fact that paying $25M+ in AAV until a guy is 38-40 is a piss poor idea. Getting to see what happened to Pujols and Miggy this last season should give everyone pause about the contracts they sign. MLB has seen way too many contracts turn into absolute debacles, and they seem to finally be doing something about it. Do we not remember the Vernon Wells contract?! As for a lack of effort to win… Yeah, there are probably a few teams we could mention in this regard, but what are we supposed to do about the Ray’s, Pirates, and Marlins? All of whom could easily lose 100 games this year. I mean, SF and Detroit carried huge payrolls last year and were the two worst teams in baseball. So, if you know you’re going to lose, and a lot, why spend exorbitant amounts of money on a known outcome? Why, as a small market team, should you spend any more resources than necessary to field your team when you’re planning for the future in the same way the Cubs and Astros just showed is a winning formula? Sadly, the CBA has created this and we are now dealing with the fallout.
I wouldn’t be shocked if it was collusion.
It wasn’t that obvious in the 1980’s. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and as many of you insist, MLB front office’s are a lot more sophisticated than they were back in the 1980’s… sophisticated enough to hack another team’s information, sophisticated enough to game the international signing bonus rules and get banned, sophisticated enough to hide injury reports and get suspended for a month during the following off season. Maybe you don’t want to believe it’s collusion, but don’t be so quick to shut down that possibility.
I get hating on Boras. My team has gotten burned by him plenty of times, but if it’s Boras overestimating his clients’ worth, why aren’t the non-Boras clients signed?
MLB is pretty quick to protest against it, which seems suspicious. There are plenty of sheep willing to believe the billionaire owners just like they’re willing to believe they’re hiring the best guy for the manager’s job instead of the guy with the white face. You’re willing to believe those owners who cry poverty while demanding your cities build new stadiums with your public tax dollars? You’re willing to believe those owners who claim to be in it to win it only have a “fire sale” the following off season? Okay then.
The others aren’t signing because his clients are the top of the market. Teams are gonna hold out on signing B free agent until they see where the A free agents go.
It’s hilarious how many people think Boras is responsible. There’s 150+ unsigned players. He doesn’t represent them all.
It’s hilarious to think it’s not at least somewhat of a factor, he’s got a good slice of the top of the market.
I’m going to go out on a limb and blame Jerry Dipoto.
The survey kinda speaks for itself
This year set a free agents are just good players. I don’t believe anyone of them will be Hall of Famer, yet they want to be paid like Hall of Famers.
They overvalued their market just like Nerlens Noel did in the NBA.
Seems like it’s more apathy to big contracts where after 2-3 years, the production fall off. Plus players like grienke and Stanton are getting 25-30 mil/year contract from a rise from 17-20 mil contracts. I don’t think owners wanted to be paying 3/4 players 35 mil year then you almost have to balance out low salaries to the rest of the team. And will it compete. In other words, I I don’t think the owners care for the rising salaries.
First I think this is a good summary of the different factors that have most likely had a hand in creating the current situation. It’s impossible for me to judge what is the “biggest” factor. I wanted to vote all of the above. I believe for some teams, some of the above factors are more dominant, and for other teams, different factors are dominant, and it’s all combining together to soften the market for these veteran players.
2 Points about collusion:
1.) It’s happened before. That is a demonstrable fact. But the last time it was PROVEN was during the 1985-87 period. Anyone can research this if they are so inclined. . Collusion has not in fact been proven since then. While I am far from a tin foil hat wearer, and generally not much into conspiracy theories, it is probably wise not to underestimate the greed and stupidity ownership is possibly capable of.
2.) Collusion between just a few key teams, (or GM’s) could have an outsized effect on the entire market.. Just as an example, and NOT an accusation against any team, :You don’t need the Yankees colluding with the A’s , or all 30 teams colluding to create a depressed market. It might just take 3 or 4 teams getting together and agreeing not to outspend one another to keep prices down. The fewer teams involved the harder to prove. But the impact could be large. Again, above is just an example of how it “could” occur.
It’s amazing how a player with certain skill sets feel there isn’t anyone who has something similar on their heels and will cost less. I don’t blame players or agents or GMs for overestimating a players value. Everyone wants to be paid more. Take for instance Archer. I’d pay to watch him play on any team in any city. When he comes out of his silly contract does he command a ridiculous amount of pay? No way. He hovers at a 4ERA. Will he ask for it? He should, if not he would be dumb.
Now take a look at Miami. Their method is ridiculous but their result will be a team that stays competitive years from now. Prior to their trades, all those high caliber players couldn’t get the job done consistently so really is what they did wrong? Probably not and now other owners might be seeing the same thing that Billy Beane has been preaching for years. How much is a high caliber player worth when you can do the same with another guy that costs less? It’s the American way, nay it’s the way of the world and baseball is finally tired of hearing other sports stars say “I wish I made baseball money!”
The market is slow because to pay these players this ludicrous amount of money means something has to give. And that’s the price for concessions, the price for tickets, the cost for parking and everything else that effects the Fan directly. If The Rays had Yellich, Stanton, Hosmer all on the same team-do you think they would hold their current attendance level of 11,000 fans? Hell no! It would go down. Because they can’t get people into the stadium even with free giveaways every game and concerts after. Imagine when parking cost increases, concessions go up and ticket prices go up. Watch that attendance drop below the Mendoza line and keep around 9,000.
The bottom line is expensive players are a bad investment to an owner and to a fan. They might be exciting but the game is Baseball and all it takes is a slipped pitch or a little extra contact to run around the bases. Some players will always do it better but their will always be another player on their heels. Owners and GMs realize this now and are making the switch. Just like players, owners want more money and guess who will win that argument in the end?
That next CBA, imo, is going to be super complicated. There are a lot of issues in baseball right now that the Union will want to change ( revenue sharing, service time, salary cap, and others) that have direct impacts on their members earning power. MLB is in a great spot atm, the Union… not so much.
Everything you list is something the players want and you’ve listed nothing owners want. Usually in negotiations both sides want something and give up the thin the other guy wants for what they want.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s the players wanted a lot of things and the owners wanted little. The players went on strike to get the owners to give into their demands. If they have nothing to offer in bargaining that may be their only alternative.
Back in 1987 the owners wouldn’t sign any free agents. Andre Dawson and Lance Parrish got paid peanuts. This year MLBTR predicted Carlos Santana would get $45 million and Lorenzo Cain would get $70 million. Santana got $60 million and cain $80 million. The owners aren’t as good at collusion as they used to be.
You are absolutely right b/c I gave them (owners) the upper hand in all this. They don’t have to give up anything (and they don’t have to want anything), it’s the Union that will be wanting and forcing their demands.
Why is that when making the point that teams are now tanking for years in order to win, the Royals are always left off? The Royals did it before the Cubs and the Astros.
The Royals had 9 seasons where they won no more than 75 games. That’s a long time to tank.
Oddly enough, when this offseason is said and done, I think we are going to look back at the list of moves made and realize it was one of the craziest offseasons ever. The perception of the dead offseason is purely thanks to the timing of free agent signings, which will be happening at the end of the offseason versus the beginning.
The Ohtani saga was the first of its kind for a few reasons. The Angels also added more veteran pieces to make a re-tooled team. The Yankees and Red Sox both fired their managers after both making the offseason, then they each hired a rookie manager that used to play for them in the early 2000’s! The Marlins were purchased, and the NL MVP was traded to the Yankees! They also unloaded another great player to St. Louis. Then we have Milwaukee acquiring to great outfielders in a span of minutes? What? Two franchise icons were traded, and to the same team! A former top-line ace was moved to the defending World Series champs! A pitcher signed the highest AAV contract ever signed by a reliever.
Honestly, that’s leaving plenty of stuff out, but it’s been a crazy offseason! JDM, Hosmer, Yu, Arrieta, and the rest will all sign at some point. We’ve had plenty of offseasons where all the major free agents were signed by January with maybe one more hold out, leaving us with no story lines or speculation for months, just us fans trying to predict the 2018 season and success of the moves that happened.
Let’s all take a deep breath and be happy that there’s been some crazy stuff happening this offseason, and that we STILL have more to look forward to!
I think it’s a combination of all of the above.
I think you nailed it with the overestimation of the market. As you said, Hosmer and Darvish have generous offers. They could be signed by now. I believe I read that Martinez had an offer. The players association would rather just complain because they aren’t getting the offers they’re originally asking for.
The more superstars ask for, the less money is available for a support crew. Like every business there is a budget and a line that won’t be crossed. SF is holding strong on that line this year.
I am blown away by how many people think the owners own MLB, they don’t MLB is an agreement between the players and owners. The proceeds of all merchandise and TV deals signed by MLB our split amongst the players and owners. A player is not paid just to play he is also paid a % of the merchandise and TV. That is why the superstars our paid so much and that is why even when a superstar player is at his end still sells alot of hats and people tune in to watch him. Before the last couple of years the players contracts made up as a whole about 60% and since the last CBA was signed the owners have low balled player across baseball to where now the players get 40% that is why Kershaw, Jansen , and multiple other star players are speaking of strike in 2021, anthreat of strike can be just as effective as a real one. Educate yourselves on the truth not just what other misinformed people spread. The owners do not own MLB they come and go just like players do. And sometimes a prospect in the top 100 turns out to be a bust a star player who finally earned the right to sign a contract and play for his favorite team then blows a knee and never is able to live up to that contract well an owner who bought his favorite team can suck too unlike one player a really bad owner can screw not just his team but screw over our whole game.
You do realize that there’s a reason we call the owners “owners”… right…?
The players OWN half of MLB so technically there owners as well. All hats jerseys etc says MLBPA why because they OWN half just because you and most others are ignorant to how a professional sports league is run they are not. All the players are not seeing the return of investment as agreed upon in the CBA.
Owners might come and go, not sure which ones you mean because it seems that while there are a few recent changes most teams didn’t change hands for decades, anyways that’s the point-It’s a business and they want an investment. A smart owner takes minimal risk to gain mega rewards. A gambling owner buys a World Series or hopes to. To think an owner doesn’t own The MLB is so far from the truth. I don’t know any personally but if I was an owner and my GM wanted to increase my payroll from 90 million to 152 million I would definitely have a say in what happens with my team. Merch will always sell. Noname Joe that bats a .291 with 40 homers will just as much as JD Martinez. The trick is to find Noname Joe and not have to pay JD anything.
I voted other as I think the proliferation of very young (cheap) talent Correa, Seager, Bellinger, Betts, Judge, Lindor, Sanchez, etc has made teams less likely to give out big contracts for older/declining production. My guess is these players are facing elite pitching from early teen years, so are ml ready at a young age.
Second to this is the post roid data showing declining production in the back half of a players career.
It seems that teams have finally realized that’s it foolish to pay for past performances, and that they are now only willing to pay for what they project a player to do over the life of the contract.
Fully agree. I think owners are finally becoming more involved. Dodgers owner paid over 2 billion for the team. San Diego costs 800 million. For the owner spending 2 billion on an asset contracts and a yearly payroll of 125 million is nothing to think about. To the 800 million dollar owner it’s a bigger percentage. I think owners are becoming more involved because that line is being crossed with regards to that percentage.
I think people are thinking collusion because of the randomness of the statement coming out from MLB Commissioner, it came out of relatively nowhere, as there weren’t any major suggestions of it before the statement. In a sense, by putting the statement out, they created the very narrative they seemed to be trying to be put to bed.
For example, it would be like a major bank giving a press release saying that they aren’t embezzling from their employees’ pension fund when there isn’t an law enforcement investigation or a story in the newspaper making those assertions. It’s creating the very problems you say you want to solve.
It may even be as simple as that the teams that are projected to win over 90 games in 2018, per FanGraphs, are usually the major bidders for expensive free agents.
So they may be saying what more do we need to do now and is it worth the price?
They may be thinking, we’re independently projected to “be in the playoffs”.
So let’s just wait to see if we are in the race in July and we can just pick up someone at the trade deadline, if not we saved all of that money.
The key ironically may be who has the better minor league system to offer a young player for a good free agent to be.
So good scouting, drafting and player development may be what they are thinking is the best investment.
Sorry but its tanking pure and simple. Or better put its a supply and demand problem. With 1/3 of teams looking to lose as much as possible that create a serious overload of free agents with fewer teams vying for services. In the past you could count on teams to at least try to sign some mod tier players in an attempt to appease fans. Now for a majority of teams the fans will go insane if ownership trying to get better before the numbers supposedly tell you to. Again royals are a great example. In 2014 every stat guy railed on dayton moore for trying to win and instead wanted the team sold off. Even after the run to the series the stats people wanted the team torn apart. Thank god dayton isnt an idiot or i wouldnt be able to display the world series replica flag my kids got me for christmas.
Hi Jakeboykin. If I understand you, you are saying that the 1/3 of teams looking to lose as much as possible reduces the demand for free agents and that is causing the slow market? And can I infer that those losing teams are trying to play their AAA team in the majors hoping to get lucky, like the Astros just did and the Royals before them? Or like what Billy Beane did in Moneyball? By playing their AAA team they save a great deal of money but they also make a lot less money. The bottom line is to get revenue sharing and make a buck by slashing costs to the bone? So in effect those 1/3 of teams are extended minor league teams for the highest bidder? Is that your point? So I think you’re making my point for the teams in it to wait until Aug 1st.
The correct answer is a really terrible trade market.
Teams prefer to deal through trade, but there are very few sellers, and nobody is willing to give up prospects, because prospect value is insane these days (due to increases in scouting and development). Also, the buyers’ needs haven’t matched the sellers’ assets. Pitching is extremely scarce.
Of course, the next best answers are:
1) Teams focusing on scouting and player development, and choosing to go that route vs. expensive, overpaid free agents.
2) The money pit for free agents has run out. Teams have already burned up most of their money on Scott Boras clients (or have decided that it’s a terrible investment). Arbitration salaries have gone way up, especially with younger stars now making more money than they ever have.
3) The talent pool has increased tremendously, so teams don’t have the space to accommodate free agents, and free agency just simply isn’t as big of a deal anymore. When you include stars from Japan, Korea (and Cuban defectors)… and all of those international free agent contracts for prospects (from the Dominican Republic and the like)… those players are all under contract, and many occupy spots on the teams rosters, so teams don’t have the roster space (or $$$) to accommodate free agents. And, of course, increases in scouting capabilities has increased the talent pool as well, whether it be better prospects, or the “everyman” MLB players that teams are signing and trying to turn into stars.
4) Advances in metrics and intelligence and a crazy pitching market. Especially ones like FIP and the like for pitchers, where teams don’t want to pay top $$$ for certain overvalued pitchers.. And the fact that FIP, SIERA, etc., etc.. has exposed a line-of-thinking that most pitchers are not very effective (esp. in hitter-friendly AL ballparks like TOR, TEX, BAL, CWS, etc.) means that there are only so many great pitchers to go around. Almost every team now has a pitching need, and the options in free agency are not very appealing (whether it be $$$, age, injury, inconsistency, other flaw-Darvish), so teams are just sitting around waiting for some out-of-left-field option to fill out their staff. You saw it with Rich Hill a couple years ago,, this year with Tyler Chatwood. Charlie Morton to another extent. Or, going into the next point… they’ve chosen to instead beef up their pen….
5) Increased bullpen spending. Teams spending on their pen instead of on other areas where they are better covered in-house.
Excellent analysis rovssss