When J.D. Martinez decided to wait until just after the beginning of Spring Training last year to sign his 5-year, $110 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, I thought that might have been a one-time thing.
I mean, a perennial all-star hitter, a guy that could change the scope of a line-up and would ultimately be one of the biggest contributors on a World Series roster. Why wouldn’t he wait? He had just helped the Arizona Diamondbacks rise from the depths of the National League West and ushered them into the Divisional Series.
But, J.D. was also entering his 30-year-old season and had pretty much just revitalized himself as a player and turned in his best season to date. He needed to wait to get the type of offer that would change his life.
Here we are, almost 365 days later and a day before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, and I have finally understood that Martinez’s situation was not a one-time occurrence.
Not only are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two 26-year-old all-stars who are the probably the most coveted free agents in the past decade, unsigned but so are guys like Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Moustakas, Adam Jones, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Harrison, Jose Iglesias, Ervin Santana and Evan Gattis.
Jones has been a staple in the Baltimore Orioles roster for the past 10 seasons and still has the ability to contribute heavily at the age of 32. Keuchel is a 2x All-Star, a 4x Gold Glove winner, and is four years removed from a season in which he led the league in innings pitched and wins, while also winning the Cy Young award for the first time in his career.
These are just two players that have contributed heavily to their former teams in the past, yet they remained unsigned. Unfortunately, guys like Keuchel, Jones, Gonzalez, and Kimbrel, are handcuffed due to teams reluctance to go out and spend money, when they still have a shot at either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
(I can hear the Jeopardy theme song playing in the background)
While there may be a small list of teams out there who have a realistic shot at the two premium free agents, anything can happen in free agency.
For example, it was reported recently that the San Francisco Giants are now in the running for Harper. Last Wednesday, after the market for Harper seemed to have somewhat disintegrated due to his high asking price – he turned down a 10-year $300 million offer from the Nationals, just to give you an idea – the Giants slipped into the running.
They waited nearly three months before deciding to meet with Harper last week and they made the trip down to Las Vegas in hopes of wooing the once dubbed “Chosen One” into wearing the Black and Orange and revitalizing baseball in the bay for the foreseeable future.
It seems like the White Sox are still high up on the list for Machado but other teams like the Phillies, Yankees, and there could also be a mystery team involved as well.
Either way, this waiting game needs to end in the near future. Spring Training is right around the corner and the beginning of the season is just about six weeks away. Rosters will look dramatically different between the time that teams report and the time they take the field on opening day.
But while the whole world is playing the waiting game to see where Harper and Machado sign, rumors are they are just playing that waiting game with each other in an attempt to have a little extra leverage in negotiations.
So, in the end they are both standing there laughing at all of us.