You will soon hear the rumblings by agents about collusion.
Collusion in sports is where teams actively get together to adversely impact player contracts and benefits.
In this off-season, not one free agent player has received more than a three year contract.
The largest pitching contract had been Chatwood's three year, $38 million deal.
hot stove league has been very cool, especially with top name pitchers
like Darvish and Arrieta looking for 5 or 6 year deals near the $200
But the climate around baseball front
offices has changed. Sabermetrics has given general managers new tools
to evaluate (and in negotiations, de-value) players performance. The new
CBA rules regarding the penalties for breaching the luxury tax
threshold in multiple years have made even big money teams like the
Yankees and Dodgers punting many player contracts to get under the $195
In addition, teams now believe major
league "controllable" assets are more valuable than established free
agent veterans. Fans have come around to believe in a team's
"rebuilding" process to go through some very bad years on the road to a
championship (see, the Cubs and the Astros).
rebuild model has a focus of developing a young core of position players
that a team can control for six full seasons. In conjunction with that
model, expensive starting pitching is being replaced with more bullpen
arms. Last season, only 15 starters threw more than 200 innings. The
rise of using bullpen arms in the 5th inning of games is becoming
routine. Relievers are less expensive than starting pitchers (even
though this off-season most of the moves have been overpaying relievers
in two year deals).
Because starters have had long term
deals with the fear that the back end is dead money, teams are
tentative to overwork them in spring training and during the season. The
result has not stopped injuries and TJ surgeries.
few teams have pitching depth in their minor league system. The White
Sox are the exception. If a team can develop their own starting
pitching, it can effectively save hundreds of millions of dollars in
payroll obligations. Those savings could be used to pay for a stud free
agent to fill a final roster need (a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado).
have become much more principled in their decision making processes. In
the past, only Jerry Reinsdorf had a strict rule not to sign a starting
pitcher for more than 4 years. And when that rule was not followed, the
Sox got burned (example, Jon Danks).
In the past,
teams expected their rotation to handle more than 68 percent of the
innings thrown during a season (1000 of 1458 IP). Now, it is down to 60
percent which puts another 125 IP on the bullpen. In order to cope with
this production issue, teams may think about going with a 6th starter to
take those 125 IP or have one or two long relievers capable of throwing
3 or 4 innings from the pen.
The only other way is to
adapt pitching philosophy to get more outs. The Athletics had a
development strategy that every pitcher in their system had to learn to
throw a change-up. The change-up became the team's dominate strike out
pitch. Last season, high power teams like the Cubs were caught off-guard
by curve ball pitchers. It is said that any major league hitter can hit
a fast ball. It is harder to adjust to a slide or straight curve ball
after a fast ball sequence.
The star free agents may
have to wait a long time this off-season before signing new deals. This
plays well with teams who are looking for a discount in years and in
average annual pay from players.