Pitchers and catchers report in a few days. Full squad workouts are about a week away.
And Jake Arrieta doesn’t have a team. Neither do J. D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Cobb or Greg Holland. Nor do Edwardo Nuñez, Lance Lynn, or Jonathan Lucroy. Andrew Cashner is still teamless. So is John Lackey and Jeremy Hellickson and A.J. Griffin.
Some big-name first basemen like Chris Carter, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison, and Mark Reynolds have yet to sign with anyone. Neither has Rangers-favorite Mike Napoli. I suspect his career is done.
infielders Brandon Phillips and Neil Walker are outside looking in. As are Stephen Drew and Mike Moustakas. (But Adam Rosales has a minor-league deal with the Phillies, and smiling about it.)
Outfielders are still looking for work, too. Good outfielders like Carlos Gonzalez and the aforementioned J. D. Martinez. Melky Cabrera is finding a contract much harder to locate than steroids. Jose Bautista, who is used to begin hit, is hitting a brick wall (justice considering he arrogantly demanded a five-year $125 contract last year which fell on deaf ears and now, a year later, is probably done). Carlos Gomez is out on the streets too.
So many good players are realizing the system is changing. Teams aren’t willing to throw around stupid money to mediocre players. They aren’t paying for players in their 30s to perform like they did in their 20s.
Yes, Hosmer will get his money. So, will Arrieta. And J. D. Martinez. They have huge contracts in front of them. They have just chosen not to sign them yet. Scott Boras has chosen to take to the court of public opinion to run up their salaries. That tactic might have worked in the past, with fans putting pressure on teams to sign these guys at all costs. But front offices are smarter. They will save the huge contracts to the fewer and fewer guys who really deserve them. And there simply aren’t enough teams “going for it” to create bidding wars.
The super stars will still have the Brinks trucks backed up to their front doors, once they decide to open the gate and let the truck in. They are waiting for a bigger truck to drive by that isn’t coming. You can put on the tux but that doesn’t mean the prom queen is coming to your door. Their sights are set too high.
The market has corrected itself. You’re going to have the haves and the have nots, relatively speaking if you can call anyone with a guaranteed salary of more than half a million dollars a year a have not.
Really, it’s the middle-tier player who is going to suffer. The elite will be compensated for a level commensurate to their performance. But why throw Shin-Soo Choo money at a guy when there are ten guys behind him who can contribute almost comparably, for so much less?
At $20 million this season, is Shin-Soo Choo going to produce 40 times better than Willie Calhoun, who is going to earn 40 times less? Or Nomar Mazara, who will make slightly more than Calhoun?
Not to pick on Choo, but that’s the reality of the situation. For a small fraction of the cost, you can get near the production level.
I could have a guy paint my entire house for $10,000. Or for $1,000 another guy will paint everything but the front door.
Players, and their agents, are in for a new world order when it comes to salaries. Just like in the real world, the middle class is shrinking.
Spring training starts in less than a week.
But not for a lot of guys who’ve chosen not to play.