GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported for spring training earlier this week. Position players will join them for the first official full-squad workout Tuesday.
Even country singer Garth Brooks has even been on the field with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Florida. But Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and dozens more major-league free agents do not have jobs.
“It’s not great, not great for the game by any means,” said Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw – whose three-year, $93 million contract extension signed in November has been topped by just one free-agent contract this offseason (Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals).
“You’ve got two guys that are 26 years old, superstars in the game (Harper and Machado). Obviously, I don’t know what’s going on on either side. I don’t know what type of offers they’ve been given. But you’d like to see them signed – as well as the 100 or so other guys that deserve a spot. … That’s a pretty good team out there still. There’s a lot of good players. I don’t know where it’s at with everybody as far as the offers they’re getting, it just doesn’t seem right that they’re not in spring training or close to it at this point.”
The estimate of 100 is probably inflated. But there are a few dozen legitimate major-leaguers still unsigned – and it’s hard to argue that the group doesn’t include difference-makers who could change a team’s fortune.
“It’s tough. Things change, I guess,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said. “You don’t want to see the season start and those guys not have a team. That’s not good for baseball. It doesn’t matter what anybody says. Any time that Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, those type of guys, don’t have a team that’s not good for baseball.”
The Dodgers’ players union representative last year, Justin Turner points out it was a slow free-agent market before the 2018 season as well.
“I feel like the last two years free agency has moved at an incredibly slow pace and it’s obviously not a good thing for anyone,” Turner said. “Especially when you have two guys of that caliber of player and they don’t have a job yet, there’s definitely something wrong.
“Everyone has a thought and an opinion (about what is causing the slowdown) but it doesn’t really matter until we figure out what we’re going to do.”
Many players – including stars like Justin Verlander and Buster Posey – have been vocal on social media about their disenchantment with the situation. Some have pointed out the need for changes in the system. Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright went so far this week as to suggest a players’ strike is “100 percent” likely if things don’t change.
“I think it’s just frustrating,” Turner said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of anger, displeasure because guys know this year it’s Manny and Bryce but next year it could be that player. There’s a lot of that going on.
“Also … we show up every year because we want to win a championship. I mean, there’s nothing else out there. The awards are great, but at the end of the day it’s about trying to win a championship. When you have that caliber of player that are still available, I feel like a lot of guys think those guys would help their team and are trying to figure out why aren’t we taking advantage of these guys still being out there?”
Management’s unspoken response is that players like Harper and Machado put themselves in this position with talk of 10-, 12-year contracts and $400 million windfalls. Other free agents made the same mistake to a lesser extent.
“The way baseball works is the people before you sign deals and they set the market. And if you come along and you’re better than those guys, on paper, then in theory you should get the years and the money they got,” Turner said. “So for owners to start pointing fingers and saying players are greedy, whether they think those (past) deals were bad or not, they’re the ones who gave those deals so they dropped the ball. Now they’re punishing us for giving out these long deals, which is not how the game works historically. You give out these deals and someone is always going to come along and be better than that guy and someone is going to come along and be better than that guy.
“With the way the money in this game is going and growing and growing every year, revenue is going up ever year – I think it’s fairly easy for players to be confused that the free-agent market isn’t growing along with the revenue.”
Turner also pointed out how long most players have to wait to become free agents – the payoff “at the end of the arbitration-slash-team control rainbow,” as veteran Rich Hill put it in making a similar point. Players are paid little during a three- or four-year minor-league career, then have to put in six years at the major-league level before becoming eligible for free agency. By that point, they’re being pinched by a growing industry perception of a 30-something player being “a declining player,” Turner said.
“If front offices are changing and evolving in the way they do business, then maybe the system needs to change and evolve too,” he said.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said he is “excited” by the progress he has made in his rehab from hip and elbow surgeries.
“It’s just so much better being out here as part of a group,” Seager said. “Instead of grinding away by yourself.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Seager is “essentially a full-go with everything outside the throwing.” Seager has begun taking batting practice, running the bases, fielding ground balls at full range and long-tossing to 135 feet. The main item left on his checklist is to start making throws from across the diamond at different angles.
“There were some balls he was challenged on going into the hole that I saw and sort of cringed at times,” Roberts said after watching Seager go through an infield workout. “But he said he felt good. It felt normal. He felt quick. It was very encouraging.”
Right-hander Ross Stripling was not in camp Saturday as a precaution due to an upper respiratory illness.
Read more about Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner among Dodgers criticizing slow free-agent market This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service
Powered by WPeMatico