With several prominent MLB free agents such as Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez and Yu Darvish yet to be signed, collusion rumors have started to seep into baseball circles.
ESPN MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian isn’t buying it.
“I don’t see this as a collusion situation,” Kurkjian said. “It’s a bad situation. The players are furious. The agents are furious. But I see this more as a market correction that has happened in baseball.”
Kurkjian’s comments came at the “Writing & Talking Baseball” panel for the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland Monday afternoon.
Instead of acknowledging collusion conspiracies, Kurkjian pointed to a “whole new brand of young, brilliant, relentless general managers” who are operating differently from past managers. These managers have a new idea of a player’s value, Kurkjian said.
Kurkjian, who covered the 1987 MLB collusion case, saw no similarities to what is happening now.
“Guys weren’t even getting contracts from anyone. Even the MVP of the league didn’t.”
Eduardo Encina, the Baltimore Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Sun, echoed those sentiments, saying that teams are becoming more reluctant to hand out big contracts to older players.
“What teams are looking for are players that they can invest in, get value from, who are controllable,” Encina said. “They’re not spending money on guys who are 30 plus years old, who have reached free agency after six-plus years of service time and have that kind of wear and tear.”
Many have pointed to the 2019 free agency class, which could be headlined by All-Stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, as a reason for the lack of signings.
Jorge Castillo, the Washington Nationals beat writer for The Washington Post, referenced frequent big spenders like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers who are spending less money than usual in hopes of landing Harper or Machado next year.
“[Harper] and Machado are outliers,” Castillo said. “You can give [Harper] a 10-year deal. Maybe when he’s 32, 33, 34, 35-years old, he won’t be as productive but the value will be there in terms of giving him maybe a 10-year, $400 million contract.”
While the Nationals and Orioles were able to avoid arbitration and land deals with their young stars for one more year, many have speculated that the upcoming season will be the last for Harper and Machado in their respective cities.
Castillo suggested widespread changes as the only way to encourage teams to spend more money in free agency.
“If you want to change the way this is, you might have to overhaul the system,” Castillo said. “Maybe cut arbitration. Something where these players become free agents earlier. Because we’re seeing it, teams aren’t going to pay like they did before.”
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