Every baseball off-season teams open their wallets, ready to go shopping like it's Christmas to get the best player or players to help give hope to the fan bases that will root for them to win a World Series championship the following fall. In most years, that happens.
Not this year, though. The 2017 free agent class, with the likes Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez and Yu Darvish, weren't signed until close to, or into, Spring Training! Neither players got the $200-million that they (and maverick agent Scott Boras) had hoped for, nor a contract back-loaded for close to a decade.
Why is that? Is it collusion, as former ballplayer and current chief of the MLBPA Tony Clark claims? For the most part, free agents sign massive deals for obscene amounts of money when it starts in December.Like a domino effect, teams jockey to see who's next. And for some reason, the big markets and the small markets didn't do that this time. So when players sign late into the off-season, the deals are smaller, as is the money that goes with it.
Maybe it's buyer beware. Case in point: one of the big free agents in the 2015 free agency period was Zack Greinke, who signed for 6 years and $206-million with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona is not known for spending that much capital on one player, and when the 2016 season was a disaster for the D-Backs, management wondered why they paid $34-million a year for one guy!
It's handcuffed the team from signing other players or ones currently on the roster looking to stay in the desert. An exorbitant luxury tax is in Arizona's future, that's for sure. So maybe this time around, owners don't think this current crop of free agents are worth the risk. Or, is it something else?
The 2018 off-season has Bryce Harper, Andrew Miller, and Dallas Keuchel as unrestricted free agents. All are set to get big deals. Harper, Miller, and Keuchel are among the best of the best in the MLB. So maybe owners are lining up to get these guys, as all three are instant impact players, guys who can turn a franchise around just by stepping foot into the clubhouse.
As of this writing, Jake Arrieta is still unsigned. Arrieta is one of the premiere pitchers in the game, having a hand in ending the Chicago Cubs' 108-year World Series championship drought in 2016. He already has two no-hitters to his credit, and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award. He’s known as an innings eater, with a bulldog mentality on the mound. However, 2017 was his year to 'cash in' by having a great season, and he did not. A 14-10 season, along with being tied in the NL for wild pitches with 14. So now he waits to sign either a one-year deal with a team and try to have another 'cash in' season, or a multi-year deal for less than he expects.
Does 2018's free agent class get the massive deals, or more of the same like the 2017 class? We'll have to play the waiting game, like they do. Except, we don't have $200-million on the table waiting for us.