USA Today Sports

Are MLB teams tanking? MLBPA boss thinks so

Rob Bradford
February 06, 2018 - 2:50 pm

J.D. Martinez isn't alone, and the Major League Baseball Players Association has taken notice.

That much is abundantly clear with MLBPA boss Tony Clark issuing a sternly-worded statement, proclaiming that MLB teams are "engaged in a race to the bottom," with an unprecedented amount of free agents still unsigned and spring training just a few days away.

Clark wrote, "Pitchers and catchers will report to camps in Florida and Arizona in one week. A record number of talented free agents remain unemployed in an industry where revenues and franchise values are at record highs.

"Spring training has always been associated with hope for a new season. This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of the game.''

Thus far, the biggest deals signed by a free agents have been outfielder Lorenzo Cain (5 years, $80 million with the Brewers) and reliever Wade Davis, who inked a three-year, $52 million contract with Colorado. Justin Upton did sign a five-year, $106 million extension with the Angels immediately following the season. Cain and Upton are the only two free agents to get a deal lasting longer than three years.

The Red Sox have offered Martinez a five-year deal worth what is to be believed in the vicinity of $125 million, while Eric Hosmer reportedly has at least one seven-year offer on the table.

The Sox biggest signing this offseason has been first baseman Mitch Moreland, who agreed to a two-year, $13 million contract.

In a statement to ESPN, MLB refuted Clark's claims:

"Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans. Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win. In Baseball, it has always been true that Clubs go through cyclical, multi-year strategies directed at winning.

"It is common at this point in the calendar to have large numbers of free agents unsigned. What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers, some in nine figures. It is the responsibility of players' agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement. To lay responsibility on the Clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted, and inflammatory.''

For the status of all the MLB free agents, click here.