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Volume 25 No. 199
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MLB Falling Off Fans' Radars During Second Straight Slow Offseason

Bryce Harper is entering the prime of his career, but only several teams have shown interest in him
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB has developed an "off-season problem" the last couple years, as "nothing interesting happens for huge stretches" during the free agent signing period, according to Cathal Kelly of the GLOBE & MAIL. The winter has become a "protracted staring contest as everyone strings matters out" until the start of Spring Training. What should be "months of news is crammed into a few days." MLB seemingly can "only create tension for two months of the year -- September and October" -- and it "can’t manufacture interest during the off-season, it has badly failed" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques wrote it is "hard to escape one thought as the game takes what’s usually its most abundant season for free publicity and turns it into a death march: Baseball is screwing itself." It is "fair to wonder at what point this inertia -- and dozens of teams’ unwillingness to compete in earnest for the greatest players -- will have a drag on fan enthusiasm" (USA TODAY, 1/8).

JUST DO IT: THE ATHLETIC's Jim Bowden wrote the "most disappointing part of this offseason" has been that "more clubs aren’t in" on either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Just about every team "should be bidding ... regardless of their major league payroll." It is understandable some teams "don’t want to go 10 years" with the offers, but both Harper and Machado "will still only be in their age-35 seasons" at that point. It is "astonishing" that someone like Harper, who "could be one of the greatest offensive players of this generation, only has a handful of teams competing for him" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/9). THE RINGER's Zach Kram wrote, "Every team should want Machado and Harper because they are young and talented and available just for money, with no prospect demands or tricky trade fits needed." Some 10-year deals "prove vast overpays in the long run, but that’s typically a reflection of those deals going to older players rather than long contracts representing sour investments in and of themselves." Machado and Harper are "special" (THERINGER.com, 1/10). In DC, Barry Svrluga writes 10-year contracts cause owners and front offices "to get queasy" because they are "tying up an inordinate amount of payroll in a player whose performance five years from now, eight years from now, a decade from now is nearly impossible to project." Svrluga: "None of that really applies to Harper" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/11).

NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE: In Philadelphia, Corey Seidman wrote the "'middle class' of baseball players is no longer getting paid like it was" from '07-'16. Front offices are "smarter now and more shrewd with their investments," which means "fewer albatross contracts and probably more profits for owners." However, does that "benefit the common baseball fan in any way?" Phillies RF Andrew McCutchen is the only "position player who has signed a contract guaranteeing more" than $10M over at least three years. That is a "decline from even last offseason, which was a bad one for players" (NBCSPORTSPHILADELPHIA.com, 1/10).