Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez didn’t mince any words in his take on the slowed free agent market of the last two offseasons, describing the situation as “embarrassing for baseball” in comments to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “You have a business. They say, ’The market is down, the market is changing.’ The market is higher than it’s ever been,” Martinez said. “People are making more money than ever, and they’re trying to suppress it. It’s more of a race towards the bottom now than a race towards the top. You can go right now through everyone’s lineup and you already know who’s going to be in the playoffs. What’s the fun in that? We might as well just fast-forward to the end of the season.” Martinez had his own frustrating trip through free agency last winter, as it wasn’t until late February that he finally landed his current five-year, $110MM deal with the Sox. For the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations, Martinez feels the MLBPA needs to be better prepared to counter what Martinez feels is a lack of competitiveness (“Losing is incentivized now.“) from the majority of teams.
In other labor news, representatives from the players’ union will meet with Rangers, White Sox, and Dodgers players on Sunday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. MLBPA reps regularly make separate trips to visit every team during Spring Training, though three teams gathering en masse for a meeting is unusual. “It’s not hard to understand the symbolism: Players are prepared to show unity,” Grant writes.
Here’s more from around baseball…
- Rival evaluators were “greatly surprised” that Marwin Gonzalez couldn’t find a three-year contract, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required), as the utilityman instead inked a two-year, $21MM deal with the Twins. Agent Scott Boras initially targeted a four-year deal worth around $60MM for his client, and while Gonzalez’s versatility drew interest from many teams, none were willing to approach that price. (MLBTR also predicted a four-year contract for Gonzalez, though only at $36MM.) Olney wonders if utilitymen like Gonzalez are better served by signing earlier rather than later when testing free agency, and Olney also suggested that a reunion between Gonzalez and the Astros could have materialized if Houston had realized the player’s market would be so limited. The Astros seemed to move on early from Gonzalez, acquiring Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays to serve in a utility role.
- Jose Martinez’s two-year, $3.25MM extension was “something beyond a business decision” for the Cardinals, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters, including Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The unusual deal only covers this season (a pre-arbitration year for Martinez) and the slugger’s first year of arbitration of eligibility, so there technically wasn’t any urgency on the team’s part to get a deal done. In fact, Martinez was the subject of trade rumors for much of the winter, both from MLB teams and in Japan. Not wanting to either sell Martinez to the Japanese team or deprive the player of some added financial security, the extension served as a means to satisfy both Martinez and the Cardinals. (Not to mention the clubhouse as a whole, as other Cardinals players were happy to hear that their popular teammate had a new contract.) For Martinez, he cashes in his first big professional payday, which he said will go to help his family in Venezuela.
- Manny Machado’s ten-year, $300MM contract cracked a new spending threshold for the Padres, though as the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Bryce Miller writes, such an acquisition opens up new revenues pathways to account for that expenditure. Machado’s signing has already seen a $1MM boost in ticket sales, according to club chairman Ron Fowler, plus TV and radio ratings are expected to be on the rise. Being featured on national ESPN/FOX games, as well, provides a wider marketing opportunity for the Padres, as well as just gaining more general exposure to the broader public. Of course, the opportunity to create revenue is “all a product of winning,” Padres president of business operations Erik Greupner reminds. “With a player like Manny, there’s immediately a buzz and return on the business side. What’s more important for the long-term is what this translates to on the field.”