In mere hours, 2017 will be in our rearview mirror and we will welcome the new year. Heading into 2018, many talented MLB players still remain unsigned as Buster Olney of ESPN.com analyzes.
It’s been no secret that the 2017 offseason has been slow as molasses in comparison to past years. However, it’s mind-boggling that only one MLB free agent has signed a contract of four or more years thus far. That was Justin Upton who signed a five-year, $106 million contract on Nov. 2 to stay with the Los Angeles Angels.
Since then we have seen 47 free agents sign MLB deals that were for three years or less. Of those signings, 27 were valued at $10 million or less.
While there could be a variety of reasons why so few free agents are being signed to lucrative deals, a large part of the problem must be due to the new collective bargaining agreement reached last fall.
There are penalties for teams that stay over the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million and incentives for teams who fall under it.
“Major League Baseball does not have a hard salary cap, by definition,” wrote Olney. “But because of a combination of penalties and incentives built into the competitive balance tax, teams that have historically been the highest-spending have cut their payrolls significantly for 2018 — and are working to get under the CBT threshold of $197 million.”
Current high-spending teams like the Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, and Detroit Tigers are all projected to fall under the $197 million threshold for 2018.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, famously known for their high payrolls, are also planning to sneak under the luxury-tax threshold.
That’s rare indeed as the Yankees have been over the threshold for 15 seasons in a row and had it as high as $224.5 million as of 2016. The Dodgers have topped the Yankees’ spending for the last four seasons and had their payroll as high as $291.1 million back in 2015.
What this means is that even the top spenders aren’t doling out cash this offseason at the rate they were in the past.
When all is said and done, it’s possible that the Boston Red Sox will be the only team to be over the luxury-tax threshold.
“I told you last year that this was an unequivocal disaster for the union,” one agent said according to Olney. “All you need to do is look at the trends.”
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports released his ranking of the top-80 free agents of this offseason and made predictions on where each will land and what they will make.
The player who was signed was Wade Davis; Heyman’s seventh-ranked free agent. Davis signed a three-year, $52 million deal with the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 29. The deal actually made him the highest-paid reliever in MLB history on a per-year basis.
However, this isn’t too shocking when considering bullpen arms are being valued more now than ever. It’s also an outlier as none of his nine fellow top-10 peers have locked up a contract yet.
This fiscally-conservative approach will benefit teams monetarily, but it will not benefit the players.
“It’s a simple matter of supply and demand,” one agent said according to Olney. “For a lot of these guys, it’s turning into a bloodbath.”