It was cold and rainy Thursday morning in Phoenix, and the forecast from Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark was just as gloomy.
It’s premature to talk about a strike until 2021, certainly no one is walking out of camp right now, and even though Manny Machado just signed the richest free agent contract in history with his $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres, it hardly diminishes the frustration and anger coming from the players.
Bryce Harper will certainly get his money and starter Patrick Corbin got $140 million from the Washington Nationals, but baseball’s middle class is getting squeezed out of the game.
Only five free agents have received contracts of four or more years this winter, with just 12 players guaranteed at least three years and a stunning number who have received nothing more than one-year or minor-league deals.
The latest contract to send players screaming to the heavens was Josh Harrison’s $2 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Harrison, 31, a two-time All-Star who has been one of the most versatile players in baseball in his seven-year career, was frozen out all winter until finally landing a guaranteed contract.
“When you see things happening in the industry that we haven’t seen before," Clark told USA TODAY Sports. “Every level of our membership is being affected as a result what we’re seeing.
“So the idea that Josh Harrison, as talented as he is, and the level of success he has had, who means what he means in the clubhouse, is case in point. These guys can help teams win, and if there’s a commitment to it, there will be value derived from them. Unfortunately, what we’re seeing suggests that commitment isn’t what it had been in the past.