• Joe Soccoa

The Hot Stove isn't so hot

We knew coming into the 2018-19 off-season that baseball would have two if it's mega stars hitting free agency. What we didn't know was how uncertain their market in terms of dollars would be. Going into the winter, many believed both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would easily get $300 million contracts and now as of January 17th, it seems as if neither will get that amount. It's been another slow year in the free agent market which is boiling into something major that could happen between the league and the players.

For the second straight year it looks as if many big ticketed free agents are still looking for work. Eventually they will find work but it be at the behest of owners and general managers making it to their terms and not the players. There were reports that were refuted that an offer of seven years and $175 million for Machado which if that were the case than almost every team would be in on the 26 year old superstar. Anyone would want a player like Machado for an average salary base of $25 million. An owner would be salivating at that number for a star like him. That report as mentioned was refuted by the agents of Machado. But it makes you wonder if these two stars will even get what their worth. It will be a huge blow to the players if both Harper and Machado end up with $100 million less than their worth and will most certainly kick start the process for the players to create a work stoppage at the end of the current CBA which is set to expire at the end of the 2021 season.

It seems as if owners are no longer wanting to spend boat loads of money for championships and believe it or not the New York Yankees seem to be setting that precedent. The team notoriously known for spending big money on big free agents seem to be non-existent in the ongoing negotiations for the games two biggest stars. The Yankees did meet with Machado earlier in the off-season but never formally put out an offer and by all reports have somewhat "moved on" from Machado as they continue filling their roster with other players. The same Yankees who were adamant about getting under the luxury tax threshold so they can be big time players in a market like this now seem hesitant and content with not signing either of the two players. The team always dubbed as the "Evil Empire" and what general manager Brian Cashman further elaborated as a "fully operation Death Star" is not swimming in the big pond.

It makes you wonder if this is the new trend in the game. If the Yankees aren't spending the money than why should other teams? Maybe other teams seem to taking a page out of the book of the Boston Red Sox who waited the market out last year to sign J.D. Martinez at nearly $100 million less than his demands were in the early going of free agency last year. Other high talented names within free agency this year still haven't signed and it's because it seems teams are waiting the market out and waiting for prices to drop. The Red Sox may indeed pull off a repeat when it comes to one of their own free agents, Craig Kimbrel who set out at the beginning of the off-season demanding a big time contract but has since come down from that initial demand because the market for him was "slow" according to insiders.

A.J. Pollock is another talented baseball player who has put up consistent numbers the last few seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks still doesn't have a team and he would be a number 3-5 in any line up in baseball. It seems as if he may have to settle for a smaller deal in order to up his value if he can get to another free agency. It's puzzling for sure that for the second year in a row, remaining free agents may have to go into their own spring training camp and wait it out. This also can potentially hurt upcoming free agents over the next few years that will have even more star power. In the 2020 free agent class you will have the likes of Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Madison Bumgarner. The following year would then feature Mike Trout. There will be no shortage of big time talent but the question will be is will they get what they are worth?

The Hot stove from a free agent standpoint isn't so hot right now but the players are taking notice and it's getting to a boiling point where things may get heated enough that a player strike may not be so far way.

Manny Machado - NBC Sports image

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