Marquee MLB Free-Agents Remain on Market, Whispers of Collusion

JohnWallStreet

Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, but marquee free agents remain unsigned (see: Arrieta, Moustakas and Hosmer); and with just 51 players (includes just 13 position players) signed thus far this offseason, for a total of $655 million, whispers of collusion exist. Last week, executives from MLB and the MLBPA met to discuss the concerns; with MLB issuing the statement “there are a variety of factors that could explain the operation of the market. We can say that without a doubt collusion is not one of them.” That’s unlikely to sway the opinion of the MLBPA, which believes there is a template (which goes against the concept of free agency) for superstar player contracts; 3 years or $20 million plus annually, but not both.

Howie Long-Short: Franchise values have increased from $18.1 billion to $46.1 billion over the last 5 years and MLB will generate $10 billion in revenue this year, so it’s not like there isn’t money to pay the players; teams have just come to the realization that the money is better spent on younger, cheaper ones. As one league executive put it, “we pay players the minimum for three years and arbitration for three or four years, and then they get paid more in free agency for their decline?” Team’s wisely aren’t looking to reward past performance, they’re paying for future production. Is it collusion if everyone comes to the same intelligent decision?

Fan Marino: Sure, it’s likely that a handful of teams are saving for next off-season when Harper/Kershaw hit the market, and it’s true that star young players are signing under-market long-term deals (to guarantee their big payday); but, the rest of the proposed excuses for the cold-stove are nonsense. Teams aren’t waiting on Boras’ guys to sign, Ohtani and Stanton weren’t stalling the market, teams like the Yankees and Dodgers aren’t concerned about the luxury tax threshold and there isn’t a team owner in the league that doesn’t want to win (in the name of profits). The cold stove is a product of baseballs fundamentally flawed economic system (i.e. no floor on team spending). I suspect a strike is on the horizon; the current CBA expires following the 2021 season.

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