Don’t mix up collusion and common sense, when it comes to the 2018 MLB Free Agency period.
In the first five days of the MLB season we’ve witnessed 44-year-olds, Ichiro Suzuki and Bartolo Colon, playing like 24-year-olds and a former reliever who spent the past three seasons playing in Japan returning with a bang. Miles Mikolas, who spent parts of three seasons with the Padres and Rangers before heading to Yomiuri not only pitched decently in his return with the Cardinals he hit a home run to boot.
There’s no question the just concluded off-season left people wondering why some players signed late, even after Spring Training started and some haven’t signed at all. Was there collusion against players? I say no, the three players mentioned above point against it.
There’s no question collusion has been in the game with a number of cases in the mid to late eighties effecting players Kirk Gibson, Andre Dawson, Dave Kingman and Paul Molitor, among others. Even as recently as 2007 rumors persisted around Barry Bonds, who at age 42 led the National League in walks and on-base percentage yet didn’t receive one offer to play in 2008.
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I don’t believe what we saw this year was collusion, at least not against the players. The majority of the guys who signed late received far less than they asked for and some of those unsigned, fall in the same boat; they’re represented by Scott Boras.
Boras represents Bryce Harper, arguably the biggest name in this season’s MLB free agent class. Manny Machado is also a free agent following the season and his agent; Dan Lozano is also licking his chops at the possibility of landing his client a $400 million contract.
For me it was simply a case of agents overpricing the market; J.D. Martinez is a good player who had a historic second half in 2017 but not worth the rumored $210 million, eight-year contract floated around. I don’t think it’s analytics; it’s common sense. Sure, the owners are saving a little money and setting the market for Harper and Machado (and Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon and Dallas Keuchel to name a few).
It’s a high stakes poker game; you’re not going all in to win a small pot when you can wait awhile hopefully strike gold.
Teams are content to fill holes with MLB fill-ins and rentals like Colon, Suzuki, and Mikolas because they saved up the money and can now afford to buy into the more prominent table at the end of this season. Just like the Lottery commercial on television says, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”