Can Free Agents Be Free?

According to this story by Buster Olney (subscription required) on Wednesday 65 free agents remained out of an original pool of 139. Considering that we are ten days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, I find that amazing. And there are some big names out there. Chris Carter, who hit 41 homers last year. Mike Napoli, who hit 34. Matt Wieters and Jason Hammel are available. At what point do these guys take an incentive-laden one-year deal and try to reestablish their value for next season?

And this will have big implications for next offseason as Olney points out. Not only will there be a bevy of players coming off of one-year deals, teams will be patient based on this year. Think about the Yankees. Matt Holiday was a pretty solid signing at $13-million for one year, but what would you say if they had signed Chris Carter for much less than that?

It seems like we have entered a new world in baseball and the players are not catching onto it. Old and expensive is out, young and cheap is in. If you are a superstar, you will get superstar dollars. But if you are not, you had better be very careful how you negotiate because you might be fighting for scraps at the start of spring training. We may start to see rosters comprised of a handful of guys earning $20-million or more and then the rest earning less than $5-million. In short, we are might be witnessing the destruction of the “middle class” in baseball. (I know, I don’t feel sorry for any of them either.)

And all of this drives up the value of prospects. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees, a team loaded with prospects right now, manoeuvres in this new environment.