For the second consecutive year, prominent free agents remain unsigned with very little time remaining before spring training. And MLBPA head Tony Clark is not happy about it.
Clark ripped the slow process, comparing it to the pace of play arguments that have permeated through baseball in recent years.
“All the dead time in the last two free-agent markets is a larger threat to our game than any supposed dead time between pitches,” he told the Associated Press, H/T NBC Sports.
To an extent, this is overplayed. If guys like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sign just before (or even during) spring training, there’s no practical difference between that and them signing early in the offseason.
With that understood, it’s hard to dispute Clark’s point.
A season ago, we saw J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta go unsigned until late-February, or early-March in Arrieta’s case. It’s even crazier with Harper and Machado, the prizes of the 2018-19 class. Both players are only 26. Free agents who are that good and that young do not come around very often. Yet both of those guys (as well as Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, and others) remain unsigned.
Quite frankly, this kind of thing was rare in baseball before last offseason. And it’s not happening in other sports. In the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James at what was essentially the first available moment. In the last NFL offseason, we saw a flurry of free agent activity before the period had even officially begun.
This will absolutely be something that comes up in a big way when it’s time to negotiate a CBA. It may or may not come with a work stoppage. But as we can tell from Clark’s words, it will be contentious.