Three reasons why this off-season is moving at a snail’s pace

Veronica Chung
2 months ago
It’s not unusual to see slow off-seasons in MLB. With less time between seasons compared to other sports, MLB’s break usually picks up steam in late December or early January so players and teams can prepare for spring training in February. But this off-season has been unprecedented, given that it has been sluggish compared to other winters. 
So, what’s holding the market this time of the year with the spring training being only five weeks away? Below are three main reasons why the market is moving much more slowly this time of the year.

The free agent market landscape is weaker

Other than superstars like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the free agent market hasn’t really taken off. There has certainly been a flurry of signings here and there but it’s mostly been focused on pitchers thus far. This is indicative of the current free-agent market. After Ohtani and Yamamoto came off the free agency board, it was evident that the position player market is weaker compared to the last offseason. Most of the position player core is high-risk since the teams would have to take a leap of faith to sign them. It’s no secret that players like Cody Bellinger have injury risks while players like Matt Chapman can be an offensive gamble despite the stellar defence they bring. 
While the starting and relief pitching market is much stronger than the position player market, pitchers are looking to sign richer deals than before. How high exactly? Just keep in mind that Jordan Hicks signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the San Francisco Giants this week. To put that into perspective, Marcus Stroman signed a  two-year, $37 million deal with the New York Yankees. Who in the world would have thought Jordan Hicks is getting more guaranteed money than Marcus Stroman? 
There’s no question that the market is more expensive despite the weaker free agent class and the teams will probably wait out as much as possible to sign cheaper deals. Sometimes, waiting games do pay off from the teams’ perspective as players become desperate. 

Some teams are still uncertain about their broadcasting revenues

Speaking of the waiting game, it’s also good to keep in mind that Diamond/Bally Regional Sports Networks (RSN) filed for bankruptcy. According to Evan Drellich at The Athletic, Diamond Sports holds the rights to 11 MLB teams’ TV broadcasts via its Bally-branded RSNs and the talks between MLB and Diamond centred around the Cleveland Guardians, Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins even if the Twins are not one of the 11 teams under contract currently. 
This essentially puts these three teams in limbo with the Guardians and Rangers at risk of being dropped by Diamond. To add insult to injury, a bankruptcy court hearing regarding Diamond/Bally RSNs has been pushed back to January 19th meaning that there won’t be any clarity on teams’ revenue streams. As a result, the market will continue to move slowly until the hearing takes place in mid-January. Teams prefer to make the moves once they have a full vision of their bigger picture, including their revenue streams, and the hearing delay won’t help with the market pace. 
While only three teams are in hot water for now, it’s also worth noting that Diamond holds the rights to the Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. Diamond does intend to operate through 2024 but its operation beyond this year is unclear. 
Once the hearing takes place in Houston on January 19th, it’ll be crucial to keep an eye out on how the hearing results will impact the Rangers, Guardians, Twins and nine other MLB teams. The hope is that the hearing will provide a clearer path for these teams moving forward and that will hopefully add steam to the slower market. 

Scott Boras represents the cream of the crop

If you were wondering why some of the free agents haven’t signed yet even in the new year, please know that star sports agent Scott Boras represents a good chunk of desirable pitchers and positional players like Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Blake Snell, J.D. Martinez, Rhys Hoskins and Jordan Montgomery. 
Boras is known for consistently securing the most lucrative deals for his clients and it’s no surprise that he thinks highly of his clients. Never forget when Boras told Carlos Correa this in his free agency: “You’re the Dior of defence. You’re the Hermes of hitting. The Louis Vuitton of leadership. The Prada of the postseason. It’s a one-stop shop for a championship designer.”
On top of that, Boras is also known for helping clients sign later in the offseason. While some of the clients, like Nick Martinez and Jung-Hoo Lee, might have already signed with a team, there are still many Boras clients that are waiting to sign a deal even with the spring training approaching fast. That’s because much of Boras’ strategy is playing the waiting game. In other words, if Boras doesn’t believe that his clients have the “right” deal, he is willing to wait until something perfect comes in, no matter how long that may take. Boras has cemented his name in MLB by helping players sign monster deals for years – he’s not going to let the reputation slide this offseason. 
Even if the market seems to be moving much more slowly this time around, players will eventually sign their deals and teams will have their full roster sooner or later. Whether that gets done at a snail’s pace or cheetah’s pace, that’s up to the baseball gods.


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