There are still significant names on the Major League Baseball free agent market. Some of these guys are pitchers, making it surprising that they are still available when we are a precious two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training.
A number of factors have combined to create this situation. The world was effectively on hold to wait and see where Masahiro Tanaka landed. That process took time, and the fact is that 25 year-old starting pitchers are not available and seeking long-term, nine-figure contracts very often.
Next there is the issue of qualifying offers and compensatory draft picks, something that has only been under the microscope in the recent years under a new CBA. That is the part the MLB Players Union is concerned with, as they feel that team executives might be in violation of the CBA by commenting publicly about their stance on free agents (and specifically a reluctance to surrender a draft pick).
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the following:
The players union is concerned that club executives may be violating the collective-bargaining agreement by commenting publicly about their negotiating positions.
“Rob Manfred, baseball’s chief operating officer, told FOX Sports that the union has not specifically complained to him about the nature of the market, but acknowledged that the two sides have discussed remarks by club executives to the media.”
I would be interested to know how things would be playing out for different, more predictable players. Just take the top three guys. Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are wildly unpredictable. Nelson Cruz is coming off a PED suspension. In each case, there are reasons beyond the draft pick system to steer clear, even if executives are not supposed to comment publicly about it.