Baseball Free Agency Sees Unfortunate Trend

Baseball’s off season and free agency is often referred to as the “hot stove.” But for the past couple of seasons, the stove hasn’t turned on. Might as well sell it because baseball is unfortunately seeing a bad trend. Free agents won’t get signed until the last second. As a matter of fact, last season the plethora of free agents held their own spring training.

One of the biggest names in baseball in Bryce Harper hasn’t signed a deal yet. And we can only imagine that it’ll be worth a lot. But seeing how the Boston Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez last second last year, Bryce Harper will probably follow suit.

Another big name to look at is LA Dodgers infielder Manny Machado. He’s currently meeting with the Philadelphia Phillies today. But it appears that Machado to the Yankeess may be a done deal after meeting with the club yesterday per Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman.

Free Agency’s Unfortunate Trend

The hot stove in baseball has turned into how many baseball games play out now. Boring and sometimes unbearable to watch. The slow and rather event-less free agency period turns into rumors after rumors but little action. Even commissioner Rob Manfred tried to spruce some things up with the mention of the pitch clock. However; that died quickly.

Even though this is an unfortunate trend, many fans don’t seem to care. And why should they? Unless your team is in the running for a top name, many other fans simply don’t bother to keep up. Probably because they know that nothing will get done until spring training starts.

The winter meetings in baseball have become just a spectacle with little getting achieved. MLB Network does an outstanding job of covering the event but for the past couple of winter meetings, they haven’t had much to report on.

So why the slow down? Major League Baseball’s revenue has increased from $6 billion from 2007 to over $10 billion now. So it’s not a lack of money, so what is it?

“I’m hesitant to call something a trend before having [enough] information to really say this is a new normal — it might just be a slight shift in the timetable,” Bloom said to FiveThirtyEight last week. “There is a lot more information available. Teams increasingly like to have more and more information before making decisions. That may push some things later in the calendar. I also think — and this offseason is a good example of it — staff movement and staff [hirings] are taking up a larger chunk of offseason. … The more coaching staffs and front offices grow, the more time that is going to take [in early offseason].”

Chaim Bloom, vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, said in an interview with fivethirtyeight.

Is timing really an issue? On the surface you may say “Well you’ve had all regular season and post season to make a decision.” But, with the ever increasing reliance on metrics and statistics, this argument may carry some weight. More and more teams are considering what metrics say rather than their eyes. It takes a lot of time to measure a player according to stats and metrics. So I for one am not ruling this out entirely.

However; what I think is the real problem. Other teams are waiting on other teams. And players are waiting on other players. They want to see what player A got before they sign. This is not just a baseball problem, it’s a sports problem. Because of this, players are willing to sign more shorter term deals just to have a guarantee contract.

Unfortunately for baseball though, this appears to be a trend. Surely other sports will follow suit as well.

– Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)

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