In other words, you could still form a pretty good team just from the remaining free agents.
“This has been coming for six, seven, eight years,” said Mike Stanton, the former Yankees reliever, who represented the team to the union during the 2002 collective bargaining talks. “Free agency gets pushed back and pushed back because teams know once you get closer to spring training, prices are going to come down. Eventually, players want a team to play for. There’s pressure from home, from friends, all around, to figure out where you’re going to go.”
Stanton, now an analyst for the Houston Astros and for MLB Network Radio, does not like what he sees. He will not use the word collusion — the practice of owners working together to hold down salaries, which happened in the 1980s — but he has noticed a startling lack of urgency in this market. Typically, a team will add an extra year and another million or two in annual salary to separate its offer from the field. But sensible deals like Jay Bruce’s with the Mets, for three years and $39 million, seem to reflect a lack of desperation.