Doldrums. A dry spell. A brain-melting and frustrating period of incredible boredom. Whatever words or turn of phrase you use to describe the current state of the baseball offseason, you’re right. We’re in a haze of offseason monotony punctuated only by the occasional reliever deciding to join the Colorado bullpen. The hot stove has gone cold.
It’s not by accident. Teams are seemingly trying to force a freeze-out of free agents until their asking prices drop, allowing teams to spend less on players and pocket more money, and it may not be a coincidence that so many of them adopted the strategy at the same time.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (perhaps inadvertently) hinted toward it in the opening of a recent article about the number of Scott Boras clients still on the market when he said that teams have adopted a “newfound strategy of slow-playing the market to force players into accepting lesser deals.” The general baseball public has figured that this has been happening for a while, so it’s intriguing to see it in writing. There are a few ways that many teams can arrive at the same course of action all at the same time, namely:
— It’s the most obvious way to approach things, and any analyst worth his or her salt would read the market and rules in this way.
— There is an agreement among the teams, unspoken or spoken, to not compete for the premier free agents in the name of depressing their earnings.
— Some combination of the two.
Let’s give baseball the benefit of the doubt and say there’s no collusion. Why would front offices decide that the best course of action would be to not sign major players until prices dropped? There’s the matter of the newly structured and harsher luxury tax, which has caused behemoths like the Dodgers and Yankees to desperately unload salary, but it’s not as if every team is bumping up against the limit. The faux salary cap (and that’s exactly what it is, a soft salary cap that harshly punishes teams for spending “too much”) is not an issue for many teams.
MLB owners seem to want more money in their pockets, not those of players
Sporting News | Jan 11