Why Isn’t Anyone Bidding for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?

The two best free agents on the market are stars who deserve big money. So what are they doing waiting by the phone as February nears?

Comments: 177

  1. Long term deals have not really worked out for ownership and the game itself is in decline from a viewership perspective as the true fan base is older and not being replaced with new fans. The game is in precipitous decline whether MLB wants to admit it or not

  2. baseball is no different then other businesses where guaranteed, long-term deals stifle motivation. why do you think many players perform so well immediately prior to free agency? why do you think salespeople typically work on commission? neither of these guys have provided the necessary consistent effort to date - a long term deal will only exacerbate that mind set.

  3. why do you discount all the empirical evidence that long term contracts that these two are seeking end up saddling a franchise with unproductive players and the financial burden of their contracts years down the road. The Yankees ended up releasing Arod and ate the money... and that is one of many instances of poor judgment of giving long term guaranteed contracts. The game will be better off without the burden of these contracts

  4. So let me get this straight. You are saying the companies and owners the employees are working for are making more money and not passing it on to the employees? Welcome to what happens to the rest of America.

  5. Last I checked, Major League Baseball only has 30 teams. Did the oft-theorized expansion just happen without anyone knowing? What are the new teams?

  6. Let's not forget that the rise of analytical research in baseball has changed the game on the field and off. Analytics have likely played as big a role in the failure of free agents to find new homes as anything else. The WAR (wins above replacement) value probably does not equate with the dollars expected by players. Every team employs a medium to large staff now of analytic geeks and they crunch numbers and put a value on EVERYTHING.

  7. I am just a fan, not an expert on baseball economy or finances. But for years I could not understand why baseball owners paid big bucks for long term contracts when the future performance of the players or future health were about as predictable as the weather. Seems to me they have learned from experience -- and should have learned from history. How many great teams in the past had an All Star at every position? How many relied on starters pitching only four innings (an absurdity even now)?

  8. The Major League Players Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021, i.e. in 2 years. Harper and Machado (and their agents) are discovering that a juicy 10-year agreement will not be risked by the Owners & GM's; a huge deal like that for one player could strangle a club's plans for the rest of the players they wish to retain. That's why the Teams are focused on securing and developing young talent in the minor league system. Harper and Machado will likely end-up signing for a shorter period of time: 3 to 4 years.

  9. Perhaps no one is bidding because they know these 10 year contracts never turn out well. Add to that the fact that Machado seems to lack hustle and desire and Harper came off a pretty weak year. The Red Sox hit a home run by signing JD Martinez late last year to a contract that has an opt out for the player after 2019. Martinez will then be 32 and the Red Sox will have paid fairly for his 30th and 31st year. Let some other team sign a 32 year old to a long term contract.

  10. @Jack, add the extremely lucrative-for Chris Davis and his agent-contract that Peter Angelos negotiated three years ago. Davis had a historically horrible year in 2018, but will continue to mak a very good salary in 2019 for the length of the contract. Angelos is responsible for this travesty. Think that other organizations haven't taken note?

  11. This has more than a faint whiff of an outsider's point of view. As I recall, much of the Yankees' success in the 1990s was due to home-grown players and the addition of just the right fit - Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Ramiro Mendoza and so on. Likewise, the Yankees' demise started when they tried to sign an All Star at every position. Sports writers need to do their "research" out there, not at BaseballReference dot com.

  12. It's clear that baseball has become a more profit-driven business than the past owner-driven hubris of George Steinbrenner, Tom Hicks or Mike Ilitch. When owners step back and let the rest of the office optimize their dollars, you've seen the transference of spending go from over-30 folks to locking up younger players in deals that buy up free agency. Mike Trout will make $33 million this year as the best player in baseball at 27. That extension the Angels gave Trout pays him through his age 28 season and then he hits free agency in 2021. There are any number of teams that would pay $33 million to Harper or Machado per year for the next three years. But no one expects them provide that level of value when they are 35+ -- so who in their right mind would sign a ten year deal? Players and agents like Boras are stuck in a mindset of a bygone era to expect 10 year deals - in 2017-18 there have been 250 free agent signings and only 17 players signed a contract longer than two years, only six longer than three years (Cobb BAL 4, Cain MIL 5, JD Martinez BOS 5, Upton LAA 5, Yu Darvish CHC 6, Hosmer SD 8). Player and agents need to drive in the next CBA for more pay during the "control" years when their value is highest, and then temper what they are going to actually get in free agency beyond their 30th birthday. Teams' only-pay-premium-for-high-value years model is a huge conflict with their control of players for 6 years - this will undoubtedly lead to a work-stoppage.

  13. The sense I get from this article is that the millionaire owners should pay millions to players just because the owners are rich.

  14. @James First of all, it isn't millionaire owners, it is billionaire owners, and secondly, why not? People don't go to ballgames to watch Fred Wilpon or John Henry or any owner or GM, they pay good money to watch the players on the field play, and they don't want to pay that to see the likes of Adrian Gonzales or Bautista when they are old and broken down, or AAA level players. So what is your answer, go back to the reserve clause days in an age when owners have revenue they couldn't dream of back in the day?

  15. @bill d No, my answer is that players should be paid based on their skill, remaining years, the market, etc. Not just bc a team is so many million under the spending cap.

  16. Michael, look at the history of these ultra-long-term mega-deals: Even all-time-great players, like Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, become albatrosses by their late-30s. The issue isn't the money, really, it's the contract LENGTH. Teams would *love* to pay Harper or Machado $150 million over the next five years. They just don't want to pay them $300 million over the next TEN.

  17. @Jeff then why dont they make those offers? no one has made those offers.

  18. @BD Well, they are obviously waiting until Harper and Machado get desperate. In theory, some wealthy team could get them both for 10 years for 300 total. Or some team, like the Phillies, could offer one of them a 2 or 3 year deal at x with an option and a buy-out. That way, they have to play hard.

  19. @BD I wouldn't offer Machado a plug nickle. I'd never sign a player who is proud of his lack of hustle.

  20. In addition to the analytics and the less than stellar history of long term (7+ years), expensive contracts ($150 million +), I think that perhaps some teams are just looking more at the bottom line. For many years, teams like the Mets and Yankees would spend in excess of what they took in. For the Mets during the Madoff years, they were probably losing $40 or $50 million per year. Now, at least some teams, are looking to make a profit. Management cannot say this publicly because most fans want their team to spend whatever it takes and disabusing fans of their spending fantasies is not good public relations.

  21. @Schneiderman You believe that one and I have a bridge to sell you. If owners are really losing money, if player salaries are really putting them in the red, then let them open their books. Steinbrenner tried that back when MLB colluded, and when their books were looked at they found that the Yankees were swimming in black ink, and Steinbrenner used various losing ventures to make it look like he was losing money. With the Mets, their revenue base is one of the highest in MLB, they are around 7th, yet their real payroll (not what they report) is around 16th, and they are making money, and have been the whole time. Yes, they used money from the Madoff scheme to help pay for payroll, but that was sleight of hand, what they got from madoff they took from the team. Put it this way, between ticket sales (the mets average 30k a game at home), parking, concessions, and SNY (regional cable networks are a bonanza), the Mets could have a respectable payroll, not the 130M they are putting on the field. When Cespedes got hurt and went on the DL the Wilpons high fived, they could report a 30M payroll while paying only like 3 million, same with the broken down David Wright, it is the ultimate scam..and that is true of most of the owners.

  22. @bill d I agree with you that if the owners would open their books we would have a better understanding of their income, profits and loss. The closest thing that I am aware of is the Deadspin article of some years ago which showed the following teams had the following net income: Pittsburgh about $14 million in 2008; Tampa Bay about $4 million in 2008; Marlins about $4 million in 2009; Angels about $10 million in 2009; Mariners had a negative net income of about $4.5 million in 2009; and the Rangers had a negative net income of about $12 million in 2009. I am sure that the health of MLB has improved since then but I recall hearing even 10 years ago how much money the owners were making.

  23. It might be best to treat the players the way tech companies do their employees. Each player gets a base salary and then "options" to align the employees' interests with the company's. For baseball, they would have to find a way to compute a payoff to the players that correlates to their individual performance, their team's performance on the field AND their team's performance in terms of revenue. The base salaries would vary based on the player, as would the number of "options". But for every player, he gets more if he does well and his team does well (on the field and financially). Lots of complexity to this idea, and it take away the security that a player receives when he signs a long-term deal, but those are becoming increasingly rare.

  24. @Bynda Paying based on team performance means players having great years on bad teams will be underpaid (e.g. Zack Greinke's Cy Young year on a 97-loss Royals team), making it harder for bad teams to turn themselves around through free agency. Paying based on team revenue means good players won't sign with small market teams and will more frequently include small market teams in their no-trade clauses, so that even more so than now, small market teams will only be able to acquire good players through their own farm system. The current system is already tilted against small markets, and your proposal would be even worse. The problem with the current system is that it underpays for solid performance in a young player's prime, then overpays for poor performance when that player gets old, which theoretically sorta evens out, except when the teams get wise to the fact that they don't necessarily have to overpay the old player after all. People can hem and haw all they want about whether you should make millions of dollars to play a game, but if MLB is making $11 billion a year, the players deserve their cut. Maybe a system like you're proposing of base salary + incentives would work (many contracts are already structured this way), but the incentives should be based only on personal performance, determined through a transparent formula, and come out of a pool of MLB revenue representing the players' fair share of the billions of dollars that their skills have generated.

  25. Much as I appreciate the skills and drive of men like Harper and Machado, I feel as if the stratospheric economics of sports in this country are crazy. I say tax owners and these rich players and include Division 1 college football and basketball "universities," and use the money to have schools that educate and have athletic programs for all. Pay for Medicare for all, too.

  26. If the focus is on these two then let's get real. It has less to do with paying a premium in a vacuum and more to do with paying a premium for two players who haven't really integrated in to a winning effort. If they couldn't do it with the Nationals, Os, and Dodgers why would it be a good bet they can so it elsewhere? That leads to the central issue about these two. They are more concerned with their own performance and stats than they are with the outcome of the collective team. Furthermore they blame others for failures and create a poisonous atmosphere in the dugout and locker room. If I'm making personnel decisions, I will take a team player with more of a chance to contribute both to the morale of the team and overall numbers than risk bringing either of these two on at a huge price. This isn't just some conspiracy by owners to knock down prices and if the article was going to focus on these two players then it should have carefully examined their individual behavior as well as their ability to play well when it matters most. How many World Series rings do they have? Big 0. It's pretty clear why they're sitting by the phone.

  27. Harper had a $300 million ten year offer from his former club, which he turned down. $400 million was mentioned by his agent as a more fair target. Keep in mind that despite his solid power numbers he also hit under .250 (the Pujols line?) in 2016 and 2018. And his agent is a tough guy to negotiate with, which turns off a lot of teams. Machado played for perhaps the richest team in baseball last year but after watching him up close for several months they decided not to go after him with a long term contract. He does have a $175 million seven year offer from the White Sox. Clearly a low ball offer (/sarc 3). Manny didn't help his appeal when he said "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am." And his agent is surprised teams aren't offering ten years for $350 million for a guy who admits to not always playing hard ...

  28. @Bill, the Baltimore Orioles are a smaller market team, not the richest team in MLB. The team decided to throw in the towel and move into rebuilding mode. As sorry as I was to see them trade Machado, I understand their decision.

  29. @sanderling1 He's referring to the Dodgers where he finished the year.

  30. @sanderling1 I'm pretty sure that @Bill was talking about the L.A. Dodgers, the team that the O's traded Machado to last July. They're the rich team that didn't want to sign him.

  31. In today's baseball world, it's the wrong strategy to demand 10 years. I would had said "here's Manny or Bryce, make an offer, what you think he's worth" and take the negotiation from there...

  32. Perhaps there has been,but I don't think there needs to be collusion, for managers to reach such a common sense refusal to chance a multi-year contract for "silly money." With respect to Harper, I've watched him from his days in Hagerstown through his Nats career. A player worth silly money should be a kind of machine to handle the numbing repetitive nature of a baseball season and multiple seasons. I think Harper is more an emotional bundle than a machine. There are periods when he will hit to all fields ( to left on outside pitches) other longer streaks where he insists on the home run swing, so many times a sucker for lefty pitchers who can rely on this aggression. I read Boswell and his favorable statistics, but what about numbers on late-inning "must-produce" situations where his strike-outs are so common. And this: the Nats need a team-spirit makeover, and I don't think a a principal who draws so much attention is good for the dynamic that makes a good team with ordinary averages a winner. There. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. Sure he's a great player, but a new mix of Nats may be greater without him.

  33. @John Gardiner: I'm a Nats fan too and I agree. The Nats made a reasonable, if in my opinion misguided, offer which Harper rejected. The Nats are in good shape in the outfield and have wisely spent where the needs are greater: pitching--although one more starter would be good; catcher--a major deficit since we lost Ramos; and, second base. The only real need now is to lock Rendon down for the next 5 or 6 years. Despite the occasional media noise signing Corbin closed the prospect of Harper returning. The Learners are not big spenders. I'm not as down on him but I think the team will be better this year as reconfigured.

  34. Why would a baseball writer, who presumably makes a fraction of the money figures bandied about here, care if these these two players are offered some astronomical sum or not? One would think that a reasonable case could be made that huge salaries translate to higher ticket prices, thus negatively affecting fans. Besides, collusion, as we know from our President, is a charged issue and one that is challenging to prove. Clearly, ginning up a potential controversy could, theoretically, increase a journalist’s profile in the public eye, and thus perhaps increase that journalist’s earning potential. In any case, this sort of collusion is a bit of a slippery slope. Owners are running a business, and like all business owners have a vested interest in containing costs, and perhaps its true that salaries are out of whack. Players also have a vested interest in increasing their paydays, and certainly would like to prove that owners are conspiring against them. And maybe they are. As The Dude opines, “It’s a complicated case, Maude.” At the end of the day, though, it is in fact a game which is also played by children.

  35. Some interesting comments on the poor returns from 10 year contracts. Fair enough, but it appears that these two stars aren't even getting five year offers. Hard to say if the owners are actively colluding but if they were, it would look something like this.

  36. @Abrawang I believe Harper turned down a 10yr/300 million proffer from the Nats last september. Hubris? Harpers, or his agent?

  37. The MLBPA would be choosing the wrong players to pin a movement on. In addition to the astronomical sums these two are demanding, there are other huge issues: Harper has proven himself to be a streaky player, with fielding deficits. And his attitude seems guaranteed to destroy any clubhouse. Jonathan Papelbon can attest to that. Who remembers Harper's display in the 2014 NLDS, when he homered off a Giants' rookie pitcher, and screamed obscenities as he trotted around the bases, and continued to scream and gesticulate in the dugout, as his teammates moved away from him in embarrassment? (Harper's Nationals lost that game and were eliminated.) Has he helped his team win a playoff series? And Machado. Who wants a player who tries to throw a bat at the pitcher in anger? Or try to fight a player who tagged him out? Or spike first basemen after he was put out? He sure impressed the Dodgers with his half-hearted effort and world series performance. This is the furthest thing from collusion. What owner seriously wants to pay $20-$30M a year for a player nearly guaranteed to wreck the team chemistry?

  38. In Baseball (especially with the modern reliance on analytics), no player has enough influence on a season to be worth $30m a season.

  39. Perhaps Mike Trout?

  40. Both the players and owners are fleecing America. The fact that baseball revenues are increasing, to me, indicates that ticket prices should come down rather than that players' salaries should go up. I'm if choosing between a family who wants to watch a ballgame and the player who can't get the record contract deal, I say let's benefit the family. Or alternatively, publicly-funded stadium giveaways should be scrutinized. Are those state and local subsidies even taxed by the feds?

  41. This is why I donate to the semi annual food and coat drive at my stadium; vouchers for free tickets at early season games. Yes they are nosebleed seats but even those are too expensive for a family to spend an evening at the game...

  42. @Mmm Good point there, Mmm. What's the average cost for a family of four to attend an MLB game? Like over $200? I spent $51 on three nosebleed tix to watch the Dbacks a couple of years ago (only because I hadn't researched the cost beforehand and I had invited my son and his daughter), but it was a horrible value. We were propagandized non-stop in a deafening commercial din. I felt distinctly ripped-off. Now here this, MLB - I will not be returning, ever. HEY FANS! DO NOT EVER PAY MORE FOR A BASEBALL GAME THAN FOR A MOVIE. AND DO NOT GO BACK TO THE PARK UNTIL THEY DUMP THE COMMERCIAL CIRCUS.

  43. Phillies phan here. We heard all day yesterday that Tuesday was going to be the day that Harper was going to sign with the team. That would have been a huge mistake - not for the money spent but rather because of the one obvious factor completely glossed over in this article: He's poison for a clubhouse. We experienced the same thing with Pappelbon - he absolutely performed when he was on the team. He's the all-time leader in saves for the Phils. But with him, the dynamic in the clubhouse changed dramatically - they just weren't the same team anymore. They didn't work together - it was every man for himself. Harper would do the same thing to any team he joins. I don't want 10 years of his antics and attitude - at any price!

  44. @Chris Yeah- and they went for each other like a snake and a mongoose in DC. Two total egos - they just had to clash. Mind you, Paplebon was in the right on that play. maybe he shouldn't have actually choked Harper, however.

  45. To complicate the thinking Harper, while he is a likely future Hall-of-Famer, he's not a team player or a leader; he 's a prima donna, a narcissist--he's all about Bryce. Check out his postseason stats, too. (I say all this as a Nats fan.) He has a reputation around the league. This has not helped his free agency.

  46. Not mentioned in the article or the comments I read: the large market teams make a fortune from televising most of their games on regional sports networks (RSN) that receive $2 to $6 per month per pay TV subscriber. Only a small % of play tv subscribers watch those RSNs. For several years, the number of pay tv subscribers has been declining, because price sensitive consumers would rather watch lower cost entertainment like Netflix. Lower pay tv subscriber units crimps the RSN’s ability to pay ever-rising fees to the MLB teams. The MLB team owners are surely very focused on that dynamic.

  47. Put Bryce Harper in the Phillies outfield, and in the middle of their lineup, and you can count more wins, more tickets sold, more beer/food concessions, more jerseys and memorabilia collected, and higher TV ratings. A player's value is not only measured in wins and losses, but in customer (fan) engagement, which can last years for some generational players like Harper. The Phillies are undoubtedly willing to pay a premium salary for his services, but they are not going to bid against themselves, and likely can always add another dollar or two to the few other suitors they are competing against for his services. Put him in the Yankees outfield, a team already studded with star players, and his value is diluted. And for the more middling free agents, younger, cheaper, more controllable players are putting up similar numbers to free agents that are expecting multi-year, multi-million dollar salaries. It's still good work if you can get it...

  48. As a Phillies fan I say go Phillies get both Machado and Harper and you'll get my ticket money! I'm happy to see those other teams pass up this opportunity.

  49. Maybe the use of metrics has the owners focusing on players’ value. Is any club that pays Harper $400 million really expect to raise their revenue through one player by over $500 million to get any kind of ROI on investing that kind of money? Probably not. Harper was never Mr. September for the Nats. Even if you are chasing championships he won’t get you there. I doubt he’s going to sell a lot more seats and merchandise wherever he goes.

  50. It's not necessarily that the market for baseball talent has fallen out. It's that neither of these me-first prima donnas have shown the potential to lead a team to a championship.

  51. They'll both be signed for a lot of money, but not what they want. $300 for ten years of pre-free-agency Harper might be a good investment. But his lone spectacular year - 2015 - was when he was hungry to prove himself. Now, he wants to cash in on his terms, but GMs now have evidence that such a long term deal isn't worth their investment. Some fatted players go fallow and others may care less as they age. Still others simply spend more time in the DL whenever hurt. They usually don't seek excellence, except possibly a World Series title, and they certainly have enough dough to not care. How about three years for $100 million? Certainly more than enough for either Harper or Machado, and short enough that they can dip into the trough again. However, who among us thinks an agent would recommend this, let alone that a player would sign for 'so little'? Jake Arietta recently tweeted to other players to pay attention, that owners were 'coming' for them, and presumably for their money. But given that they're not underpaid by any measure, and that the next team either player carries to success would be their first, maybe it is only that now baseball people have statistics to back up what they already know. In court, they call this evidence.

  52. “Unlike football and basketball, baseball has no salary cap. It also has no floor, though” I thought there was a minimum salary for *ALL* Major League Baseball players!

  53. @Marsha Pembroke Basketball doesn't have a hard salary cap either, like Baseball it has a 'magic number' where if the payroll goes above that, the team pays a so called luxury tax, that is distributed to the smaller teams that don't have the large revenue bases. The floor the poster is talking about is that in football (and I believe baseball), teams are required to spend a certain percent of the cap on salaries. So for example, if the cap was 200 million in football, a team cannot spend less than 180 million on payroll (I believe NBA has that as well). Baseball has a minimum salary, but people like the Wilpons can have a payroll of 130 million on a luxury level of 180 million and not face a penalty, the idea is that team revenue should be spend on the players. In baseball it could be based on revenue and the luxury tax level, so it would be 90% of luxury tax level or 90% of revenue, whichever is less, this protects the small market teams while also stopping teams like the El Cheapo mets ownership from charging premium prices for the Oakland Anabolics.

  54. @Marsha Pembroke Yes, that comment struck me as well, but he goes on to say that it is at the minor league level that there is no floor. At the major league level it is in the hundreds of thousands. It could have been more clearly stated in the article.

  55. Bryce Harper's wins above replacement since his rookie year of 2012 are: 5.2, 3.7, 1.1, 10, 1.5, 4.7, 1.3. Harper's offensive WAR is somewhat more consistent and his lifetime OPS is .900. His indifferent defense brings down his overall WAR. But still, every other year, Bryce Harper contributes about as much as a good utility infielder. In those years, $30 million a year, Harper would make $20 - $25 million more than his numbers would warrant. Machado is more consistent. His WAR numbers are: 1.6, 6.7, 2.3, 7.1, 6.9, 3.4, 2.9, 2.8. He becomes a slightly better than average player in his off years. At $30 million a year, he'd be overpaid by about $15 million. Teams won't sign Harper or Machado or players like them unless they can mitigate some of the risk, either with shorter term contracts, performace based pay, or something else. Harper and Machado aren't signing only because they are asking too much.

  56. Last August I took a look at how free-agent starting pitchers from the previous winter were performing. Virtually all of them seemed to be under-performing relative to the money they were being paid. Quite a few had a WAR near zero. Teams paid them approximately $12 million per WAR. In other words, the vast majority of them appeared to be over-paid if you value 1 WAR = $8 million or less. And this after an entire off-season of players and the media whining about how unfair the free agents were being treated. As for Manny, to justify a $300 million eight-year contract would require him to have something like annual WAR's of: 7, 7, 6, 6, 3, 3, 2, and 2 which he could probably do. Although, it might require some hustle. As for Harper, he has had a WAR under 2 in two of the last three years. Even if he averages a WAR of 4 for each of the next 10 years that might still only come out to about $350 million, not the $400 million some people have been suggesting. If he is paid $350 million and only averages a WAR of three, how big of a loss is that to a team: possibly $80 million? These are the kinds of concerns owners have to take into consideration. After all, it is not only a once-in-a-blue-moon long-term contract that fails to live up to expectations. People are starting to get the impression that bad long-term contracts are the rule, not the exception.

  57. Creative owners should propose more shared-risk, shared-reward contracts. The contracts should have a small amount of guaranteed money, with the rest based on performance. And, to avoid getting stuck with a long-term deal on a player who doesn't perform, they should have the ability to terminate the contract with no future obligation if the player falls below some minimum, say a .220 batting average. I would love to see the Braves bring in Bryce Harper. But he should get paid based on future performance, not past.

  58. Apparently the asking price of these “stars” mentioned is simply too high. And I can’t say I blame any team from staying away and not signing either. Free markets at work is what we’re witnessing.

  59. @CC lol, MLB is a closed market. Nothing free about it

  60. Machado does not have the greatest rep as a team mate and some one who is easy to manage and that could have something to do with the lack of interest - not his talent.

  61. As for Machado, I wouldn't sign him for any amount. Someone who is proud of his lack of hustle doesn't belong on any team that I root for.

  62. Because they are not worth what they think they are worth.

  63. Irony that Machado struck out to end the last World Series... and had a notably weak Series as well.. Tells you something about his worth.

  64. Also, they're both prima donnas-- at least in their public persona. Machado and his agent totally blew it. His chippy behavior in last year's playoffs likely cost him tens of millions of dollars. Baseball owners are famously conservative. His poor attitude really overshadowed his ability, and even his performance early in the postseason.

  65. Not m,entione din here is that attendance is down all over the MLB because the analytics driven game has become literally unwatchable. We went to see Utley's return to Philly. There was alarge crowd and Utley got a great welcome pregame and again for his first AB. However, the game itself was deadly dull. We drove down to DC a few years back for a weekend and a Phils game. Again, sheer unremitting boredom. Shifted infields, strike outs and flyballs witha couple of homers in the mix. Dull, dull, dull. Team have to be losing monry on TV rights-I mean, not making what they once did.

  66. I can't speak for other teams, but the New York Yankees don't need hitting. They need PITCHING, so their lack of pursuit of Dallas Keuchel, for example, is puzzling. They also need a better hitting catcher with good defensive skills so ditto Yasmani Grandal. Anybody want Gary Sanchez????

  67. I'm far from an analytics expert but listen to this. In 2018, on average, there were 292 pitches thrown per game. Bryce Harper, on average, saw 4.14 pitches per plate appearance. On defense, he averaged touching 2.25 balls per game. This means that he participated in 6.1% of the game action. In conclusion, I would be very skeptical about paying any one player a $30 million / 10 year contract to contribute 6.1% to my teams success. In other words, baseball is made up of a team, more than any sport is. You need multiple talented players. If you overpay for one, you (if you're not the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Dodgers) you're going to have to look at the big picture.

  68. @Anthony, you are spot on. Baseball isn't like basketball, where one star can dominate a game by controlling the ball and taking lots of shots. A baseball player can't do that, he only gets a few at bats. Even if the player is hot, the other team can just choose to walk him.

  69. How ironic. Rich owners who obtained their wealth through free market capitalism refuse to pay top dollar for the best players. Collusion is just regulation that's illegal because it works in favor of owners and against labor. Not that I care a whit about these well paid athletes. Just wanted to point our the hypocrisy.

  70. Manny or Bryce could have easily signed a 4 year, $100-$120 million *fully guaranteed* contract with any number of teams by now, but their agents say wait. Let me help you out boys, dump the agent(s) and just decide where you want to live/play. Sign another $100+ million deal at age 30 if you're still feeling it. Where's my 5%?

  71. A $300M baseball contract is absurd. And so is charging crazy amounts for tickets and food at the game. If you're frugal it cost $200. to take a kid to a game. One adult and one kid and one hat.

  72. I am a longtime baseball fan (Dodgers). I love baseball and appreciate the talent and skill of these great players...but, these salary expectations are crazy and out of proportion relative to the fans who support the game and ultimately fund these contracts. Just like how CEO salaries are now so out of whack with society...it should be the same for the owners/players who make a killing relative to the salaries of the fans who have to pay through the nose these days in order to watch/attend games.

  73. Missing from this article is the fundamental and perverse premise of MLB compensation: we will pay you relatively nothing for 6-7 years and reward you in free agency (should you not be totally decrepit by then). And let's not even start on how minor leaguers are treated. It is by far the most backward compensation model in professional sports where the owners have all the power. How did the Union let it come to this? Should be more like NHL. Players should be rewarded financially during the prime years of their playing lives and not be given a wink and a nod that the money will come later should their bodies hold up that long.

  74. Did Kevin Brown's signing 20 years ago start this? First 100 Million Man and at age 34. Won 18 his first year, then nothing. Stayed five (out of seven) and quietly shipped to the Yankees. Mariners signed Cano for 10 and this year stripped the team clean to get rid of his contract. Kyle Seager, age 31, also a 10 year signee for 100 Million or so....has never hit 100 RBIs and deteriorated from hitting .275 to .225 in two years. Team stuck for 4 more years at 18 per.

  75. @A. Fuller What ever happened to Randy Meyers? Padres signed him to big bucks, and he never appeared in a game ever again.

  76. @A. Fuller Kevin Brown stole so much money from New York there should be "WANTED" posters all over Yankee Stadium with his face on them. Right next to ones featuring Carl Pavano.

  77. Bryce Harper is good, but let's look at some stats. In the past 3 years he's hit .243 and .249 in two seasons. He struck out 169 times last year, and as i recall was barely above .200 at the all star break (correct me if I'm wrong). In 7 years, he's only hit over 30 homers and his best season was in 2015. For a guy supposedly coming into his prime, his stats have been on the decline the last 3 years since his peak. I'm not saying he's not great, but seems like he should have taken the $300m offer which supposedly was on the table from the Nats. I don't see him surpassing that. Manny has had 100 RBIs once in his career and OBP of .335 - he doesn't walk that much. There are questions about his hustle. Both of these guys are excellent players. But in the same way that I believe I have an excellent house, no one is going to offer me $2M for it. And I'm astute enough to know that if and when I put it on the market. These guys and their agent have an inflated view of themselves, though all they need is one dopey owner to take their bait and they'll get it. I don't think this is collusion, rather I think the owners seem to have wised up. They'll both get money to make them very wealthy for the rest of their lives. They just need to take a haircut on what they wish they could get.

  78. If only baseball were indeed still a children's game.

  79. @Andy It is still a children's game if you watch children playing it. But it has never been a children's game when adult men play it. It's a contest with strict rules and a salary to boot. They ain't playin, son, and they haven't since college or before.

  80. @Anthony I never, literally never, see children playing baseball on their wn- the way we did Back in the Day. Not 4 a side and hitting tonight is an out, not whiffle ball, nothing. The only baseball I ever see played is organized Youth Sport baseball.

  81. I don't get this narrative that there's something wrong when you don't want to go out on a limb for 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to get anyone, let alone a prima dona who will do more damage in the clubhouse than they do on the field. In 2006 Carlos Lee signed a six-year deal with the Astros for $100 million. He came nowhere near justifying that expenditure and by 2012 he was out of baseball. That did it for me. I'm not pro-owner or anything, but I think the best way to do things is build through the draft and player development, trade the guys who don't believe in teamwork, and let the chips fall where they may.

  82. Why? The price is too high. Machado and Harper are good players relative to the rest of the mediocre talent that is called MLB. Historically, these players would be above average, not great. Their problems also include their bad attitudes. Machado does not hussle and when the chips were down in the World Series, he did not come through. Harper is an average hitter as evidenced by his batting average. I'm a Giants fan but would be abhorred if they signed either of these players. I would rather that we rebuild our team, much as the As have down across the Bay. Paying more than $10 million per year for any player seems ridiculous to me. And by the way, the Hall of Fame is just a 'hall' without the likes of Rose, Bonds, Parker, and Tiant. There is no rationale reason to exclude any of them. Nuff said.

  83. @Frank You sounded rational until you brought up the hometown "hero" Bonds and the other suspect in the gallery of shame, Rose. No, not "Nuff said."

  84. @Frank Barry Bonds should never be in the Baseball Hall of Fame! He, along with Sosa, Maguire, Clemens, A-Rod, is a disgrace to baseball and the American sports' ideal of fair play!

  85. It's similar to a market correction. With baseball awash in data more than ever, it is easier and easier to see that free agents frequently do not merit the length of contract terms (and $) that they demand. Executives love the $25M guy at age 30, but not so much that guy at 37, and the numbers back it up. Bodies break down.

  86. The mere fact that Scott Boras says 300 million is not enough money does not make that true. Also, at this point, any team that wants either of these guys can wait another 2 weeks and offer them 2 or 3 years with a Team Option and a buyout. Those guys are losing leverage by the day.

  87. Three of last year’s top free agents all signed in late February and all received contracts in excess of $130M — JD Martinez, Yu Darvish, and Eric Hosmer. There is an active market for Machado, led by the Padres. As for Harper, there is talk of the Phillies and the.Padres, too. There is certainly a pattern of late signings. But collusion is an unlikely presumption. If you think all of baseball is going to pass on Harper, you should know that there is no precedent for letting such a superstar ride. That would be insane.

  88. Bryce Harper was a great hitter in his MVP year and parts of several other years. But when he tries to jack every pitch over the right field fence, he struggles, as he did for the first half of 2018. On defense he is average at best and as a baserunner, while he has some speed, he does not always hustle. In other words, even though he has the talent to be a $30 million/ year player, he has not played like one.

  89. Because they want steroid era figures in a post steroid world. Players need to throw out the old numbers

  90. Machado's line about not being "...Johnny Hustle..." rules out the Phils going after him. I mean, this is Philly. If you're not hustling, the fans hate you. As for Harper? The Phils see him 18 times a year. He has pluses and minuses. His Hot Dog Act would not play well in Philly either. Besides, he wants more than 30 million a year for 10 years. Most Phls fans are ok with the club passing on these two guys and going after Mike Trout in 2 years.

  91. Machado does not hustle. You want to be the owner who spends 300 million on some guy that is lazy?

  92. Harper and Machado and their agents have to realize that their free agencies are not taking place in a vacuum, but in a marketplace where a 10 year contract has lasting results over many years. I consider both to be very good but not great players. Can they improve? Absolutely. Will they improve if they get guaranteed "crazy money" over a long contract that will take them into their mid-thirties? That would depend on their personal drive and motivation for team success, something that has not yet been demonstrated in either of their resumes. Harper and Machado want to get paid like they are the best players in the league. They are not. Teams may be holding out for better values like 2020 free agents Nolan Arenado and Chris Sale, or 2021 free agents Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jacob deGrom. Or teams may be hanging onto their cash to try to resign their best players (like all of the above). I am sure the players feel the owners are colluding in not offering big contracts to Harper, Machado and other free agents. Maybe the analytically driven owners just want better bang for their bucks. But yes, the owners are gaming the system. The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players' union will be up in three years. I am sure players will want changes that improve the free agency experience for them, things like reducing a team's control of a player from six years to five years, or not attaching draft pick compensation to high end free agents.

  93. @Monta1052Well-written!

  94. Perhaps the highest tier of MLB players needs to adjust its expectations; a 10-year, $300M contract for even a superstar currently in his mid-20s will in all likelihood carry significant risk of dead money at its tail end. Let’s not forget reports that Bryce Harper rejected such a offer from the Nationals, and Yasmani Grandal reportedly rejected 4 years and $50M+ from the Mets before settling for a “mere” $16M. How about paying upper-end minor leaguers a living wage, starting arbitration a year earlier for major leaguers, bringing years and dollars back into line with statistical risk analysis, and curbing the most over-the-top demands of agents like Scott Boras.

  95. 10 year contracts are rarely beneficial for the team. In fact, I think they only really work for the agents since they probably get their cut no matter how it turns out. The annual salary should go down at a certain point since they player probably won't perform in year 6 as well as he did in year 1. I don't think it is collusion by the owners but Buyer Beware.

  96. Basically, MLB owners are trying as hard as possible to restrict free agency. Free agents may cost a lot money. Younger players tied to entry level contracts do not cost a lot of money. Keep signing the youngsters for 5-6 years, cull and replace with other youngsters. Unfortunately for baseball players there are few, if any, analogues to the NFL's QB pool or first round draft choice. Ditto NBA "superstar" and first round draft choices.

  97. I am reminded of when Andre Dawson signed with Cubs last century. The contract was filled with bonus possibilities based on performance. Who does that anymore?

  98. I doubt that the billionaire baseball team owners actively colluded to restrain multi year multi million dollar deals to baseball’s best free agents. They are too smart for that. There will be no smoking gun or fingerprints to prove collusiion.The wealthier team owners have simply adopted a policy of financial restraint. It is good for the game. And there will be no tag days for so many over paid and under performing major league players.

  99. The World Series wins for the Astros and Royals provided a blueprint for teams that avoids high priced, longer contracted free agents for youth. Simple as that.

  100. Yes, it is analytics. I think a big question for owners and GM's is whether a $40 million per year salary is going to pay off (in Harper's case.) Will his presence alone sell $40 mil in tickets? Owners have to balance how much they charge for attendance to offset a Bryce Harper. And it's not like Harper has led his team to greatness - despite their roster the Nat's lost every postseason series they reached. I'm not defending the owners. I grew up watching A's players get cheated by that skinflint Charlie Finley. But at some point a star player's huge salary hits my pocketbook, and I'm already paying $150 to take my family to sit in the upper decks. PS. Why pick on the Mets? The Yanks passed on those players, too.

  101. The Mets were probably the only team to agree to an interview.

  102. This article is devoid of context. How can you claim that it's ridiculous that teams don't sign players, no matter how good, for 10 years? These guys are going to get paid, trust me. Just maybe not $30 million per year for 10 years in a row. Let's say Harper keeps hitting .250 and he's only hitting 20 home runs a year in five years, and yet he would continue to be the highest paid player in baseball until he's 36? General managers are poised to make the team better in the long and the short run. Brodie van Wagenen doesn't have unlimited cap space, and instead of spending over half of it for the next ten years, he traded for elite closer Victor Diaz and Robinson Cano, who is owed tens of millions of dollars; and signed Jeruys Familia and Justin Wilson, who both fill desperately needed gaps in the bullpen; Wilson Ramos, who also fills a dire need at catcher; and Lowrie among others. GMs are constructing their teams more efficiently (talk to Tim Britton) rather than making them all out better, sure, but restructure rookie contracts in the next CBA. I'd expect something more like an 8-year, $240 million dollar deal with a player option and incentives. They'll be just fine.

  103. @Don Its likely if the whitesox sign Machado they would sell nearly a million more tickets next year. Every year for the next 10? Unlikely. if they contend ? Maybe

  104. Markets converge. Baseball stars get paid, per time on the field, what basketball players get per time on the court. Also what ex-Presidents and high officials get per time giving speeches, and probably what movie stars get for time on the set. The difference is markets is due to those old fashioned groups, labor and owners. Baseball's union was unparalleled, a remarkable achievement for an individualized, rural sport. Owners haven't changed much, but maybe players have. The union was hurt by acquiescence to steroids. Internationalization may have changed perspectives. Time for reporters to find out.

  105. Reading the article you wouldn't know that a handful of teams have made big money pitches to both players and they are the ones waiting by the phone for the players to make a decision.

  106. @Brian M Exactly. I'm a Reds fan and they have been willing to open the wallet this year. Can't afford Harper or Machado but are hoping J. T. Realmuto is willing to negotiate a long term contract and if he is they are trying to work out a deal with Miami. The Phillies are still chasing Harper, but it's no secret Philly also wants to keep enough money in the bank so they can try and chase Trout when he becomes available (and will want a price that dwarfs Harper and Machado, but has suggested he may give Philly a 'hometown discount' to play there.)

  107. In the case of Harper and Machado, I believe the owners' are most concerned about the 10 year term. Will their skills will hold up over 10 years? Will they remain hungry after receiving a huge guaranteed long term contract? Once a team signs a massive 10 year guaranteed contract, they've lost all the leverage and a lot of flexibility in building team. You better be right. If Machado and Harper were willing to accept 5 year $200 million, I think they'd be signed. Say this for Lebron. He'll take a short and/or medium term deal and bet on himself. Plus he is a proven winner who is in the finals practically every year. There is no issue about his effort, commitment or character (except when it comes to coaches).

  108. Not such a mystery. Attendance is down, and the people who do go to baseball games are mostly old. On top of that, baseball has refused to do things that would gin up interest in the game (like a split season so teams out of contention in June had a chance for a fresh start, or letting teams make deals on draft day that involves draft picks instead of just picking through somebody's farm system. On top of that, a couple of years ago, Andrew McCutcheon said the reason kids were more interested in basketball is that all you need is a couple of hoops, a ball and some shoes. Even if you can find a place to play baseball, it's gotten just too expensive for most kids these days. I suspect the owners see the attendance continuing to decline into the future and don't want to be tied to huge contracts when their revenues inevitably go down.

  109. For baseball you still only need a ball, a bat, and a mitt (optional for soft ball)- not any more expensive than B-ball. Growing up in the sixties you could get a game going with just 3 people if you played one-a-cat before or after school. Now ice hockey- that can be prohibitively expensive to start.

  110. Please run with this story and recognize it for what it represents. Baseball has always been a leading indicator about where America has been going. Baseball integrated; then American started to integrate. Baseball began moving to the suburbs from the inner cities; inner city populations began to move to suburbs. The list can go on. Now that baseball employers are being exposed for shortchanging their employees it's time to expose American employers that are also short changing their workers bordering on the level of crisis.

  111. Bill, Offering someone $300 million guaranteed over 10 years is shortchanging an employee? If so, you are right. Baseball and US are alike— totally out of whack

  112. Bill, Offering someone $300 million guaranteed over 10 years is shortchanging an employee? If so, you are right. Baseball and US are alike— totally out of whack

  113. Harper and Machado are fine players. They haven't been signed yet because (a) they or their agents are seeking long-term contracts at top dollar, which carry substantial risk for the signing team; (b) they are unwilling to sign high-dollar contracts for shorter periods, after which the team signing them can decide to re-up, or not; (c) the teams that can afford them have valid or invalid misgivings about their character (Harper:hotheaded), desire to play at full speed all the time (Machado), or how they would fit in with their existing personnel; or (d) the owners are colluding. I have no brief for baseball owners who, like the owners of other major sports teams, want to take as much to bank as possible and treat their players like vassals, limited only by the contract with the Union. However, why does no one ask whether the players in question are unreasonable in their demands? Is there some mathematical calculation that has concluded that each are worth $30 million per? Is it only the ownership that has to capitulate to the demands of the players (and agents like Scott Boras)? I've seen no willingness of Harper and Machado to moderate their demands, either as to salary or term. Let it play out. Someone will sign them.

  114. Ultimately, the money comes from the fans, who pay for tickets and turn on their TVs or streaming services to watch the game. With the rise in income inequality, the great mass of fans has less money to spend on the ever-increasing cost of tickets, hats, T-shirts, even streaming services. How come columnists at fancy papers like the Times write only about why the players aren't extracting sufficient millions from the billionaire owners? (I loved the reference to the "brutal" strikes of the 1990s, as if the players were a bunch of Cornish miners.) I don't care if the players are making less, and the owners certainly should rein in their profits. Tell me when ticket prices go down, so I can afford to take my family to Fenway.

  115. @Alex M cmon man tickets start at $20.00 decent seats are 50. you can go for $35.00. if you can't afford that a couple times a year don't blame income inequality or the mlb owners. listen on the radio its free

  116. The fact is that teams need pitching. So Harper, Machado, their agents, and the baseball press can scream all they want, but if the top teams need pitching more than hitting, they will pass. Now, if the agents were smart, they would look to those teams not saddled with hideous contracts that they are still paying for like the Angels. Not necessary the top tier teams.

  117. @stuckincali the players want to play where its warm or exciting . thats why Manny won't take the whites money yet

  118. If Harper and Machado decide to go on shorter multi-year (say 3-5 years) contracts, they will probably get their money (30M/yr?) and make everybody happy. 7-10 years for steadily diminishing returns does not look inviting with those undeniable metrics. I do not understand though why quality pitchers are still on the market specially when a team can never have enough pitching.

  119. @robert no, only the owners will be happy. In baseball contracts are guaranteed so its the total amount of the contract thats most important not the yearly amount like in the nfl. [email protected] 3= 90 20 @ 10 = 200

  120. @fme Poor babies- a mere 90 million over 3 years. Then, if they have done well, the can get more.

  121. Long-term deals for star players rarely pay off long term, and when they don't, they saddle a team with a huge salary that is non-productive. The Red Sox have highest salary total in MLB, and part of the reason is they are still paying three star players whose long-term deals bombed (Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia). And that's just one team, right now. Others off the top of my head: A-Rod (still being paid, I believe), Jacoby Ellsbury, Albert Pujols (mentioned in article), Jason Heyward....and I know there are plenty more. Believe me, the club owners remember, and they have become much more hesitant to risk taking a possible albatross than they once were. Much more efficient to have young players outperform expectations.

  122. It is also interesting that there is a growth in the minor league model of summer league baseball that relies on college players that can’t be paid. Our local minor league club just switched to this free-labor model. I get that running a minor league club must be a business of tight margins, but after reading this article I also question whether baseball owners, from top to bottom, aren’t finding ways to exploit players.

  123. @Kevin Avery How is the college player on a minor league team exploited? My guess is that they are doing this to get more playing time than the college schedule allows. None of them are required to play - and they weren't paid by the college, either.

  124. It seems to me that, because the objective of a team is to win, baseball player salaries should correlate with "wins over replacement". If there is such a correlation, economic logic suggests that the contract Harper (or Machado) is pursuing exceeds the value suggested by the correlation. I would like to see such a chart.

  125. Watched Machado blase it in the playoffs. No thanks. Is either player a compliment to a lineup?

  126. Neither Machado , nor Harper are the best player at their position. Still its surprising ownership has been able to show restraint. Very uncharacteristic. Some team will regret not signing one of these players. probably the Dodgers and will pick someone less talented at the trade deadline.

  127. Im a huge Dodger fan and go back to the states every baseball season. I remember going to the ballpark and seeing Tommy, Piazza, Karros, Shef, and more all playing at different times and each making a new memory. I was at the game when Nomo struck out a career high of 16 or 17 and remember the excitement of the game and also the affordability. Baseball was doing fine, fans could eat, go to the game, and have a great time on $15-$20 including the tickets! Now, its been years since Ive been to the game, while seeing my favorite team make the world series 2 years in a row. I vaguely remember the 88 series now as their last win, and vowed to go, the next time they went. But for all its worth, i didnt think investing my money to see a game, one where they probably lost, would have been worth it for me. And honestly, $2000 goes a long way out here. Until ticket prices drop, old fans like me will not be coming back. I blame these terrible salaries, starting with Kevin Brown's $107 Million contract as the first, of a bad deal for the team and baseball. It even came with a private plane! Thats why the tickets began to go up. Baseball is a business...the owners will always win...

  128. I am surprised that Harper has yet to sign but hard to infer collusion when the Nats offered him $300 million over 10 years and are reported to upped that offer at some point, facts that should have been included in this article. As a fan of both the Nats and Harper, I still have some hope he will resign, although that would make for a hard decision re Adam Eaton who is also a favorite.

  129. I'll tell you what's startling: the writers on this "Comments" page have turned up more interesting stats and theories and economic philosophies than all the baseball writers I read! I love the 6.1% analysis of Bryce's contribution best.

  130. Not shedding tears for any baseball player wanting a ten year contract in the hundreds of millions when the ten year yield is less than 3%.

  131. "at least 12 of baseball’s 32 teams will start 2019 . . ." If Portland or Montreal don't lay down the cash for quick respectability, maybe each will take their talents to Japan.

  132. IMHO Manny Machado has a toxic personality. It isn't his fault, but it's true. Seeing him on the Dodgers was revelatory. A lot of emphasis these days is on the clubhouse atmosphere. They probably have that quantified too. Once it didn't matter so much, but times change.

  133. I would love to see an article comparing what the top doctor at a major hospital, top dancer at a major ballet company, and the top baseball player at a major club make. If you think it’s unfair to use the world “silly” for multi-hundred million dollar contracts that’s fine, but make a real defense of why. To say it’s comparable to other professions is much more of a joke than that Bleacher Report article. Sincerely, A pediatric oncologist who made 0.006% of Mr. Harper’s 2018 salary and a former major dance company member who made 0.0007% of his salary.

  134. "... deserve big money." Really? Millions and millions of dollars to do what? Take stick, hit ball, run around the bases. Repeat 160 times (plus spring training). Yawn. “Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you.” Oh no, think of the poor fans. The billions wasted on sports could be funnelled into so many better things. Education, health, recreation, infrastructure. I like sports but perspective has long been lost on it's value.

  135. As a youngster growing up in NYC, I had the opportunity to the greats such as Mantle ,Mays,Snider .My Dad would take me and my two older brothers to enjoy america's favorite pastime, "baseball".We enjoyed the craker jacks, hot dogs and rooted for our team (The Bums of Brooklyn), till we lost our voices.Given that players didn't make the salaries they make now ,it was all about the game. I respect the fact that not many individuals can see ,much less hit a projectile thrown at them at 100 miles an hour they deserve to be well compensated. But $300 million is ridiculous.For a family of four ,a day at the ballpark can cost up to $300 bucks. I love baseball ,but as a fan I'm no longer willing to dole out my hard earned dollar to greedy owners and players.

  136. Well, I can't talk to Harper but I can address Machado. Old school baseball fan here, nothing fancy, just love the game. Grew up watching the Hammer, Roberto, Mays, Koufax, Banks and all the rest that came after. IMHO, all a baseball fan needs to do is recall the performance of Machado during the playoffs. Swing from the heels, all or nothing approach, and I paraphrase the man himself with the 'hustle is not my thing' public statement.... ok, take that attitude to the Yankees, Boston, Philly, Detroit... IDK but I think he would be booed out of the stadium ... again, just my opinion, I will take hungry, driven player over the 'gifted' but casual player any day... and that does not even address the clubhouse issue... all I can say is who would want a player like that in the clubhouse and on the field? not me.... then again, maybe it's just me...

  137. It is difficult to sympathize with the Owners and Top Free Agents. Owners and Top Players benefit. The fans, non fans, and most players do not benefit. If I go to a SF Giant game or NY Yankee game with my family I pay a small fortune. What does a beer cost now? $20. Give me a break. I have Directv and ESPN is bundled, so I pay for it whether I watch it or not. Not to mention,Baseball is boring. Bryce Harper not accepting $300 million for 10 years, and rich owners colluding. It sounds like business as usual in America. All parties involved should be ashamed of themselves. The whole thing alienates me from MLB Baseball even more. You see it at the ballpark itself. Now you have luxury sky boxes and luxury seating around the dugouts and home plates, with waiter service. The MLB ballpark is unequal, stratified, and more out of reach. And so is the American Dream.

  138. True, Machado and Harper aren't A-Rod or Albert Pujols, but both are seeking huge, long-term contracts. Such contracts, in the post-sabermetrics, Billy Ball, wins-against-replacement era are simply no longer in play. Owners and GMs know big-figure, long-term contracts are a losing game, and players and agents, -- as the author of this article (if he's not being flippant or disingenuous) surely knows -- are just going to have to get used to it.

  139. This column betrays an ignorance of the secretive world of negotiations. First off, how do we know how many offers have been made or discussed? Teams are understandably quiet about this. Second, is it really collusion if teams have decided that massive, lengthy deals are ill-advised? If these guys were willing to accept, say, 5 year deals at $20million per year, rather than the massive deals that have been discussed, I suspect they'd have many offers. That doesn't sound like owner complacency to me, that sounds like responsible ownership. If I were an owner, I'd rather have 5 very good players than 1 super-star and 4 B- players.

  140. I have no problem with players making loads of money--but they've been offered loads and turned it down. Further, anybody who signs an athlete to a 10 year deal is sure to get the short end of that stick at least 3 years wherein they seriously underperform (usually the last few years of the contract when they're hard to unload). Ask the Yankees about Alex Rodriquez. Not to mention the number of months the guy will spend of the DL. Between at least 3 years underperforming and a cumulative season or two on the DL, I think only a chump would offer a 10 year deal for 300 million.

  141. It's not that difficult to ascertain; look at the stats. Bryce Harper isn't a great player. He's a "better than average" player, and "better than average" doesn't get you 10 years 350 million. Harper had an unbelievable 2015 season. His offensive WAR has been ok since then (an average of about 3.5). His defensive WAR is terrible. We're in a new era of baseball salaries--namely GMs don't want to get saddled with huge long term contracts--especially for guys who may not be very good after the immediate few years.

  142. Anyway- to sum this up: 1. They're not worth it. 2. They don't hustle and they're bad in the clubhouse. 3. Their own teams don't want them. 4. Times have changed. 5. All the Owners hate Scott Boras. 6. Mike Trout is available in 2 years

  143. The luxury tax serves as a defacto salary cap for most MLB teams and in that setting analytics shows that LONG contacts for players approaching their prime are losers (I'm looking at you Jacoby Ellsbury)---teams are very unlikely to see value on the back end. Its not collusion when teams stop offering contracts which are ill considered and may hamstring them for years. Harper and Machado come with legitimate concerns regarding their production and would be advised to sign shorter contracts--3-5 years which will still offer 100-150 million dollars and offer them a chance at a 2nd contract when they may still be valuable players. Team sports mandate building a balanced roster, spending disproportionately on a single player frequently results in a weaker team. As always the obsession with celebrity obscures the obvious and boring truth about building a string team without major weaknesses.

  144. These players "deserve" big money only in a relative sense. None of the truly deserves the kind of money they make, and with a base salary over a million dollars, the all make big dollars. If Bryce and Machado can't live on $30 million a year, let them become derivatives traders.

  145. Give me a team full of lower payed players who really enjoy playing the game and are less concerned with being in the spot light, a bunch that likes playing together every day and knows how to hustle. That team would be fun to watch and will go futher in the post season than one with a big star who plays when they feel good and makes twice the money of his teamates. Big money contracts make big headed brats with big mouths.

  146. I don't think Powell has made the case for collusion. I think you're seeing a market for baseball talent in which contract amounts and lengths are consistently exceeding the actual value of players, for free agents anyway. In my little corner of baseball, as a San Francisco Giants fan, I see several players currently on contracts of 4 years or more: Posey (9 @ $18.5), Longoria (15 @ $9.7), Cueto (6 @ $21.6), Samardzija (5 @ $18), Bumgarner ( 8 @ $7.25), Crawford (6 @ $12.5), Belt (5 @ $14.6), and Melancon (4 @ $15.5). Which contracts have paid off? The homegrown ones: Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, and, arguably, Belt. The free agents have all been busts: Longoria (great guy and player, but past his prime), Samardzija (never was very good), Melancon (damaged goods). Cueto has been good and may be again, when he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Agents have successfully bargained for big $$ and long contracts. Teams are figuring it that those deals don't pay back. It's a lot more than "we or some other team once paid out a bad contract." That's too dismissive of analytics. This is valuation at work, and the valuation models are flashing red. There's more payback from investing in your farm clubs and/or international players and/or journeymen who can play solidly and for a reasonable rate.

  147. Most teams these days are more cautious because they've lost a lot on these sorts of bets before. They've signed "superstar" players for very long term contracts and gotten burned. Player performance drops off, everyone wonders "hey, what happened to this guy?" and the team is on the hook for years of mandatory contract payments. Because of the luxury tax, salaries are a zero-sum game -- lots of money to one player means less money for others. It's not just the $/year of a contract, but the contract length. Big players want extremely long term deals. Signing a player for 10 years is a STUPID thing to do. Any player, no matter how good. Any player at all. Even the gullible team owners know better than to do this now. These aren't even "face of the franchise" players. These are not the guys most fans would be comfortable with if you were to say "this guy. This guy is the franchise." This isn't collusion. Every team right now is trying to play the metrics game where you don't load up with superstars, you use sabermetrics or some other stat to maximize value for the buck. What brings money in to a team is a World Series win, and teams with a few superstar players rarely win. It's the organization that can put together a great team with above-average players at just about every position.

  148. Powell sounds like a shill for the players. Maybe the owners aren’t stupid like their predecessors as he claims. Maybe they finally see the light: that ticket prices are too high and there is a limit to what fans will pay. Hence attendance is down. Powell has taken the easy path used over decades of bashing the owners. He should try being more objective. Readers deserve more credit than simply assuming we will side with “labor” over ownership.

  149. Let's not discount character here. Harper is a whiner and a brat, although a very talented one. I know I wouldn't want my team to take on his act. And anyone who watched the post season last year would have reservations about signing Machado. He didn't perform, but he did make some dirty plays.

  150. The rest of the league is just doing what they inevitably do: Follow Billy Beane.

  151. I'm a Nats fan and season-ticket holder, and while I'd love to see Bryce come back, I won't lose any sleep if he doesn't. For teams looking at him, the question is, "which Bryce are you getting if you sign him to a mega contract?". Are you getting the Bryce Harper of 2015 and 2017 who batted .330 and .319, respectively, or the Harper of 2016 and 2018 who batted .243 and .249. No GM pays 300 million (Harper once thought he could get 400 million) for a .245 hitter. He hasn't come close to matching his 2015 MVP season, and the emergence last year of Juan Soto have made Soto look like the better long-term bet over Bryce. Most Nats fans I know are happy at how Rizzo spent money addressing weaknesses over the offseason, spending money where it was needed rather than tying up every available dollar on a guy who hit .249, and that only after hovering around .220 until after the All-Star break.

  152. Regarding the non-sense of 10 yr contracts, how about getting rid of that refuge for those that can't field, run or throw anymore...the designated hitter...the roster spot of last resort? Arguably few players (clean players) over 35 get better at any aspect of baseball besides managing (followed by television broadcasting). Fans bear the costs of this now-bloated business of baseball with admission and concession fees, not to forget the crazy (and monopolized) cable television costs. We've been hosed while the players union and owners became ridiculously rich. The fewer 10yr/300 million contracts agreed to the better.

  153. Is the writer a card carrying member of the MLBPA? Sure reads like it. If the clubs aren't involved in ridiculous bidding wars for top players, then MLB has a problem? If the Yankees aren't outbidding everyone for a player, then there's a problem? When teams don't want to give veteran free agents ridiculous multi year contracts for their "leadership roles in the clubhouse", there's a problem? Could it be a "market correction"? No, there's a problem. Ask the Yankees how Jacoby Ellsbury and his contract are doing? Now there's a BIG PROBLEM!

  154. Owners are finally pushing back on these insane salary demands. It's about time.

  155. They're not going to make $30 million a year for a decade? Into the streets!

  156. Has Commissioner Manfred tweeted "NO COLLUSION NO COLLUSION" lately?

  157. I could offer my thoughts on Machado and why he's not being rewarded as so many others feel he deserves, but I have watched Harper in person for dozens of games. Simply put, he's not an elite talent. He is a young man with a frighteningly powerful swing. A swing that, I might add, will be hard to maintain in his post age 30 seasons. He takes terrible routes on fly balls, throws unadvisedly and to the wrong base. He is a horrific baserunner, who is already losing a half step or more.

  158. It's disturbing to me that so many "fans" have bought into the year ending bad press given to Machado and Harper. There is no proof that either of these guys are anything but MVP caliber, clubhouse friendly and deserving. One idiot gets quoted claiming Machado is a dirty player and MLB and sportswriters run with the story. There is nothing else written about Machado in a negative way, except what spawned from that ONE quote. Likewise Harper gets into a dugout disagreement with Jon Papelbon, yeah, THAT guy. Who do you really think was the problem there...FOR GOODNESS SAKES, BOSTON DIDN'T WANT HIM.. THAT PAPELBON! MLB, the business, is just showing why attendance is down. True fans hate the business and love the game..owners are colluding against paying Harper and Machado what they deserve.

  159. Take a look at Jed Lowrie’s numbers. He’s a bargain by comparison. And he hustles.

  160. Mr. Powell leaves out the obvious: both Machado and Harper are not well liked. They can act like punks and have to work hard to behave. Machado openly discussed the fact that he does not give a good effort and Harper has had well- documented problems with his effort level as well. Ultimately, a ten-year contract, even for a 26-year-old, is a bad idea. I don't think there is a situation in baseball history where it has paid off. While I am not in favor of owners taking public tax incentives, building massive stadiums, and then overcharging for tickets and beer, I side with them on not paying over-priced free agents. As a Giants fan, I am happy they have passed on both. There are numerous low price guys that will surprise you at the plate. The money needs to go to arms, even though the Giants have failed on that front in recent seasons.

  161. @Anthony "Mr. Powell leaves out the obvious: both Machado and Harper are not well liked." So what? In the 1970s Reggie Jackson was also "not well liked". That's what helped make him the game's best known player, its most hated villain and its biggest star all at once. He sold lots of tickets, frequently bought by fans for the purpose of showing up just to boo him. TV couldn't get enough of him. Bryce Harper is baseball's biggest star today for the same reasons that Jackson was 40 years ago. Controversy sells tickets and drives TV ratings. If the tedious stat heads in front offices running today's baseball teams into the ground can pull their heads away from their computer screens for 5 minutes, they will realize that.

  162. @mpound I see your point, but bad apples get in the way of winning World Series titles.

  163. @Anthony...I was falling for the same narrative that they are "troublesome". I googled dirty player and unsportsmanlike for Machado and ONLY the soundbite and quotes from the playoffs came up. There is absolutely nothing written or spoken about, that indicates Machado was nothing but a team player and good guy, even though he has spent all those seasons playing for God awful Baltimore. By the way Showalter isn't the kind of manager who would have looked the other way if he had a difficult player. Similarly, the ONLY negative in Harper's case was a dugout altercation with Papelbon over some play Papelbon imagined in that hopped up, hot head of his. Again nothing else, Jason Werth has nothing but praise for the kid, while Werth was on the complete other end of the player's age spectrum. Harper's a fun, clubhouse guy and his numbers prove he focuses while playing. So Anthony, and this is without ANY angst, do some reading and you're going to find, whoever started the negative narrative of these guys, are in on the collusion that's keeping 2 young allstars from getting the payday they both deserve. MLB is a government allowed monopoly and it's as close to racketeering as any criminal organization.

  164. More than any other sport...baseball is a team game..for which one, or even two, big money stars do not in anyway guarantee winning...if you doubt this theory...all you need to do is see the championship pedigree of none other than the Washington Nationals or the Dodgers or the Anaheim Angels....all with an assortment of big money stars and no Championships... Chemistry, pitching, defense, timing and good all around players make the difference in baseball...big money, big named stars that always seem to have tendency to tank once they get their big money, long term contract anyway. Go ask the Angels how that big contract for Pujols turned out for them. In all honesty, major league baseball lost it's soul long ago...with the steroids, the overwhelming emphasis on the long ball, the long, boring games, the disconnected players, the ridiculous baggy pants and big gold chains...I for one no longer invest a dime in MLB...I would much rather go and see a college game where they still bunt, hit and run, play defense, steal bases, hit to other field...baseball the way it's supposed to be played

  165. Name one 10 year contract that provided value to the team for even eight years. Can't think of one. Players need to realize that salaries won't continually go up in baseball due primarily to a lack of competition and the quality of play. Watching hitter after hitter strike out is boooooring. Defense and baserunning decline year after year as do most of the game's fundamentals. Small markets like KC, Cincy, Oakland who previously were able to build dynasties only compete for titles about once every ten years now, if that. Big market TV money ruined their ability to compete consistently and their drafted developed stars leave ASAP for big markets and big money. Waiting around hours for a three run HR is booooring. "Stars" like Machado and Harper admit they don't play hard all the time and all of them seem to be playing for their next contract, not now. So, yeah, I'd say they've topped out for the product put on the field. I'm a Padre fan and haven't attended a game in years because they want major league money for a minor league product. Lots of clubs like that now. Good luck to them and their fans.

  166. @Lou Good How do you feel about the 8-year deal the Pads gave Hosmer? Seems crazy...but at least they drastically dropped the annual salary in the last three years from $20 mil to $13 mil.

  167. @Lou Good All good points. But what about Dave Winfield? An exception to the 10-year contract curse? (Except for the missed year due to back injury.)

  168. @Elmigo Dave Winfield was an athletic god, but even adjusted for inflation, I don't think they paid him 1/3 of a billion.

  169. I'm a firm believer in paying for results. Not "hoped for" or "expected" results--real tangible results which will benefit a team. In my opinion, therefore, all these folks should be compensated primarily on what they produce. There should be a base salary for all of them and then a bonus based upon production and you can have fun figuring out algorithms to determine what constitutes true production in the multitude of scenarios that make up the game of baseball. This will also benefit lesser known players without as much charisma. As you probably figure out from my suggestion I'm not really a fan of "celebrity" culture where "celebrity" has a lot more to do with popularity and a lot less to do with skill.

  170. @serious searcher see Lyman Bostock

  171. @serious searcher Will they put more fannies in the seats? Not necessarily as the trend for game attendance is going down as people can stay home and watch on t.v. and then get to bed as they work in the a.m......one man can't win a pennant by himself....it is still a team game.

  172. The whole salary structure is wrong. Young players being under paid before they hit free agency, with service time manipulation extending that problem. Then older players, well past their prime, making off like bandits for years. There has to be a better way for players to be compensated for the value they provide at the time. Back-loading doesn't make business sense. That said, it doesn't explain the Harper/Machado situation, other than to point out that close to one third of a billion dollars for one player is a lot of $$$$.

  173. First, I don't think it is the case that players like Machado and Harper have not seen deals such as the ones reported They may simply not be taking them. Secondly, the market has changed. Some of the best teams and some of the teams most likely to spend major dollars on free agents are building from the draft and the farm system up and simply filling in with trades and then free agents when the time is right. Other teams are not at that point yet. Third, maybe a different model. Split the pie between the players and the owners, have an actual salary cap, and have true revenue sharing. The overall effect of that may not be to pay the top 1% any more, but rather pay more to the players in that 0-6 period. Additionally, and one of the things that seems to be working against this long high salary free agent deals is all of the contract is guaranteed. I'm not sure if you can blame owners for not wanting to guarantee long term contracts, no matter what the age of the player. Lastly, if the young free agent such as Harper and Machado is not happy with the total contract amount for a long term deal they are seeking, go with a shorter contract period and a higher annual salary. In their case they could then become a free agent again when they are relatively young.

  174. Whatever the owner's motives (and to me, it is simply greed, wanting more of the money) what is disturbing is hearing justifications for this, talking about ticket prices going up because of player's salaries. What I am seeing is MLB revenue going up, ticket prices going up, parking going up, concessions going up, and teams putting cheap teams on the field, the fans are getting hosed whatever they pay. The article mentions the Mets, and they are a perfect example. The Mets are the 4th most expensive fan game experience in MLB, they are 7th in revenue, but if you get around the Mets accounting tricks (ie counting Cespedes and Wright as full cost payroll, when insurance pays most of that, and it goes into the Wilpon's pockets), they have an on field payroll 16th in MLB. People don't pay good money to go an see the Wilpons, Brody Van Wageren, they go to see the games, they want to see real players, not leftover retreads, not "promising' players who still can't put together a full season, not AAA players, the Harpers and Machados draw people both home and on the road, the Mets outside their pitchers isn't going to bring people into the stands. As far as players getting paid too much, as George Will said, the players are who people go to see, they are the game. Myself, I just want to see a competitive team and not pay 300 bucks for 2 tickets, 2 beers and 2 sandwiches going to a game w my son and seeing a .460 team batting .200

  175. Did you missing the Mets getting Cano for big$ from the Mariners?

  176. @bill d Owner greed, or player greed? Is it the owners duty, as a business owner, to make players rich? If not for greed, Harper, for example, could stay put rather than 'test the market'.

  177. @bill d I think they are still paying Bobby Bonilla and Mo Vaughn