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Volume 25 No. 28
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Is MLB's CBA To Blame For Large Number Of Unsigned Free Agents?

Even with the Cubs signing P Yu Darvish, free-agent spending this offseason totals about $925M
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

With the first Spring Training camps opening today, more than 90 MLB free agents remain "jobless," as there are "dozens of non-stars who spent six years striving for free agency and have spent the winter in a state of suspended animation," according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. One agent said, "The players' association is ultimately going to be confronted with the question, 'Did they agree to a system where revenues increase and salaries fall?' There were 166 free agents when the bell rang. At the end of the day, we will have 60 major league players who will either be out of the game or sign a minor league contract." But another agent said, "Let's be honest: This was a less-than-stellar group." Crasnick notes even with the Cubs signing P Yu Darvish, free-agent spending this offseason totals about $925M, which compares to $1.45B last winter and $2.53B two years ago. One GM said, "The last three CBAs have all pointed to this. Donald Fehr and Marvin Miller never allowed any sort of spending limits in the CBA. Now all of a sudden, you've got a cap on amateur signings and international signings and a soft tax on big league signings and payrolls. On top of that, there was an extremely small increase in the big league minimum." The GM added, "We created a system that rewards (tanking)." An AL exec said, "Why spend $50 million to go from a 72-win team to a 75-win team? I think fans and front offices are more sophisticated given the success and prudence shown by some clubs in recent years. If it's the difference between an 87-win and a 90-win team, hell yeah" (ESPN.com, 2/12).

MLB PAYROLL CHANGE (THROUGH FEB. 10)
SEASON
% CHANGE
'18
-13.7%
'17
4.9%
'16
3.9%
'15
8.7%
'14
8.2%
'13
5.9%
'12
7.0%
Download the
MLB Chart

AT THE END OF THE DAY... MLB Network’s Chris Rose said of the Cubs signing Darvish, “When this broke over the weekend, people were like, ‘My god, what’s happening? The players are settling for $21 million a year.’" But Rose added, "This is still pretty good money" (“Intentional Talk,” MLBN, 2/13). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the Cubs “must not have gotten that collusion memo” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/12). MLB Network’s Al Leiter: “Ultimately what we’re looking at ... is that there’s a valuation issue. ... There’s really smart people spitting out numbers saying, ‘Player X is not worth what that agent thinks he’s worth,’ and I think it is coming down to that" (“MLB Now,” MLBN, 2/12). MLB Network’s Eric Byrnes: "We are no longer paying on what a guy did two years prior to his free agent year. No one cares about that. They care what they are going to be paying for going forward” (“MLB Now,” MLBN, 2/12).

BORAS STILL HOLDING THE CARDS? ESPN’s Tony Reali said the signing of Darvish is "going to have a domino effect on other free agents.” ESPN’s Jemele Hill said a $100M contract is now “considered value given where the free agent market has been and how slow it’s been all throughout this off-season.” ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said “there’s probably some anger” among the players with Darvish signing "at this price this late in the game." Gutierrez: "If this is indeed the domino effect, other players won’t be happy about it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/12). SI.com’s Stephanie Apstein said "it’s important to keep in mind, if Darvish was the number one free agent on the market, the next four are J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta [and] Mike Moustakas, who all ... are Scott Boras guys." Apstein: "I don’t think he’s going to let them just open up. ... Maybe it opens a little bit, but I don’t think the market is going anywhere at the moment” (“MLB Now,” MLBN, 2/12).