To say Major League Baseball’s off-season was slow this year is putting it mildly.
Pitchers and catchers have reported. Other hitters have shown up. Spring training games start soon. Yet according to MLB.com, there are still 43 notable names that are free agents. And of those who’ve signed, most are one or two-year deals.
Patrick Corbin has the longest contract of the off-season, getting six years from the Washington Nationals. Then Nathan Eovaldi got four years from the Red Sox, as did A.J. Pollack from the Dodgers and Yusei Kikuchi from the Mariners. Then there were seven three-year deals signed, including former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly’s from the Dodgers. After that, everyone from MLB.com’s designated group signed either a one-year deal (69), two-year deal (20) or a minor league contract (70).
Safe to say, the days of big-time contracts are long gone. Which is why New York Yankees DH/outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is glad he signed his 13-year deal when he was still in Miami.
Regarding this year's bizarre free-agency period, $325 million man Giancarlo Stanton says "there's issues that need to be addressed." He also admitted he's glad he agreed to his deal before this strange new era MLB has entered into.
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) February 18, 2019
Yes, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, regarding the mid to upper mid-level talent players. Not necessarily the superstars.
It appears Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s approach to free agency is similar to that of NBA players. The only problem is, Major League Baseball isn’t a player-driven league. It never really has been. Even if it was, look at all the big contracts the star NBA players have signed. Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and Blake Griffin are the games’ highest paid players in terms of value over the total life of their contracts. They also have the NBA’s longest contracts, each at five years.
With the NBA printing money faster than the United States Treasury, it makes sense they’d set the standard for player contracts this day in age. Baseball, although still doing better than some might think, isn’t necessarily in the same spot. With ratings being an issue across the board for teams, it makes sense to not lock into 10 or even six-year deals (which is why the Corbin signing is quite the head-scratcher).
However, guys like Gio Gonzalez, Adam Jones, Josh Harrison, and Carlos Gonzalez not having a home is absurd. Harper, Machado, and Dallas Kuechel play a role in some of these examples, but it’d be remarkable if those are the sole driving force.
Given tanking is a legitimate concern in the league, it’s very unlikely those three are the only ones blocking free agency up. Jason Stark detailed some rule changes that have been discussed across MLB for The Athletic, one including consequences for teams tanking. If the MLBPA is worth anything, establishing a rule that addresses tanking is their No. 1 priority until it’s MLB law. Otherwise, the average MLB player is in for a tough time after their rookie contracts come to an end.
To bring it back to Stanton, suffice it to say he won’t opt out after 2020.