WASHINGTON – Last year’s free agent market moved at a snail’s pace, with many players, from J.D. Martinez to Alex Cobb, not inking deals until after camps opened in February.
And that’s something Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association, does not want to see repeated.
“What players saw last offseason is that their free agency rights are under direct attack,” Clark said Tuesday during his annual meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
More than 130 free agents were still on the market in January. Yu Darvish didn’t sign until a week before camps opened. While waiting for more expensive free agents such as Darvish to sign, mid-tier free agents sat in limbo into late February and early March.
Clark said teams waiting so long to sign many free agents put those players at a disadvantage because they did not have a normal spring training. But the undeniable outcome of last year’s market was that deals ended up shorter — in terms of length and average salary — and that could be a hot-button issue once the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2021.
The next offseason could play out in a similar way, with Orioles shortstop Manny Machado and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper scheduled to be elite free agents.
While Clark wants the market to flow more freely, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who spoke with reporters after Clark, defended the system and the actions of owners. But he’s willing to meet with Clark and discuss his concerns.
DH for one and all?
Free agency wasn’t the only subject on which Clark and Manfred differed.
Clark said the movement to add the designated hitter to the National League is “gaining momentum” among players and he expected more discussions on the subject in the near future. Manfred predicted the status quo would prevail.
“If you get rid of the DH in the National League, there is a brand of baseball that is done,” Manfred said. “I think there is going to be some hesitation with respect to that.”
Hader’s past tweets
Brewers reliever Josh Hader took responsibility for racist and homophobic tweets that resurfaced while he was pitching in the All-Star Game.
Most of the tweets that surfaced before Hader locked his account were from 2011 and 2012. The 24-year-old said after the game that he was immature at age 17 when several of the tweets were posted and that they don’t reflect the person he is today. “No excuses. I was dumb and stupid [back then],” he said.
Hader, who gave up a three-run homer to Seattle’s Jean Segura in the eighth inning, was alerted to the resurfaced tweets when he left the game.
A blockbuster trade of Orioles superstar Machado to the Dodgers for a package of minor league prospects was reportedly in the works late Tuesday, with the details likely to be hammered out and finalized by Wednesday.
Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, for the second consecutive year, is one of three finalists for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the top honor for baseball writing. Jim Reeves, longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist, and Jayson Stark of The Athletic, are the other finalists.
The BBWAA votes on the award, with the results announced during the annual baseball winter meetings in December.
A variety of news services contributed to this report.