The Major League Baseball Players Association is “scouting sites and making preliminary arrangements to conduct its own spring training for as many as 100 unsigned free agents,” according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
With all 30 Spring Training camps to open within the next week, there is a record-breaking amount of free agent players that still have yet to sign a Major League Deal for 2018. One month ago, this was not an issue and it was presumed that there would be plenty of free agent signings in January and there would be nothing to worry about, however, now that Spring Training is right on the horizon, there is a cause for concern due to the lack of free agent signings.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is taking action regarding those free agents that still do not know which Spring Training camp they will be reporting to later this week. The MLBPA has been examining places within Florida and Arizona in the likely event that it deems another Spring Training camp necessary. The IMG Baseball Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is assumed to be one of at least three options. The union also is distinguishing coaches and other personnel to take over the facility.
Many different elements can be blamed for the slow offseason and lack of signings including slow market, penny-pinching owners, collusion, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams waiting for next year’s FA class, as well as the fact that as many as half of all teams have decided to rebuild for the future and embark in a race to the bottom. MLB has been under fire from many, including the likes of MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark who states that many MLB team’s “race to the bottom” represents “a fundamental breach of trust between a team and its fans” that “threatens the integrity of the game.”
Clark was not the only one agitated about this subject in particular, with Jerry Dipoto joining in.
“You could argue you’re going to compete with more clubs to get the first pick in the draft than you would to win the World Series,” Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto pronounced via Bob Nightengale.
And mega-agent Scott Boras:
“This tanking mechanism has dramatically interrupted the timing of the (free-agent) process,” agent Scott Boras stated via Bob Nightengale “You have clubs creating non-competitive behavior. Four All-Star players bursting into the market completely affected the normal ebb and flow of free agency.”
The MLB responded to Clark’s tirade with this statement:
“Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans. Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win. In Baseball, it has always been true that Clubs go through cyclical, multi-year strategies directed at winning.”
“It is common at this point in the calendar to have large numbers of free agents unsigned. What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers, some in nine figures. It is the responsibility of players’ agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement. To lay responsibility on the Clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted, and inflammatory.”
Regardless of the cause, the MLBPA is taking matters into their own hands and if a large majority of the 100 or so free agents still remaining within the 2017-18 offseason, including stars such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer do not sign with a team within the next week, you can expect to see an all-free-agent Spring Training facility. At this current pace, there is no way that this can be avoided.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the long run. This new free agent Spring Training facility will be a topic of debate for a great deal of time if it does take place like it inevitably will, and it will spark debates such as “Is free agency no longer a way for players to get more money and longer term contracts?”, “How will these facilities be operated and will it eventually end up hurting Major League Baseball?”, and “In what way will the MLBPA respond to all free agents that are not signed after Spring Training comes to a close.” The answer to all of these questions, it appears that we will just have to wait and find out.
UPDATE: Unsigned Scott Boras clients will not attend the camp per Jerry Krasnick.