San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria has been one of the more vocal critics of how free agency has played out recently.
Longoria has said this about free agency:
And then this:
The contracts handed out to Harper and Machado are outliers. These players were always going to receive substantial contracts. Regardless, there is still a problem with free agency. Part of this issue is that some teams are unwilling to spend money to put the best product on the field.
Despite this, organizations are continuing to generate record levels of revenue. While attendance and T.V. revenue remained stagnant, organizations are still making substantial profits through sponsors.
Teams are generating record levels of revenue, but their desire to share this revenue with free agents seems to be declining. It is becoming more difficult for certain types of free agents to get guaranteed or multi-year contracts. Players over 30-years-old seem to be disproportionately impacted by this as well.
San Francisco Giants third basemen Evan Longoria has been one of the more outspoken critics of free agency. He is not alone. Plenty of other players including Derek Holland, Sean Doolittle, and Buster Posey have questioned today’s approach to free agency as well.
They are not only questioning whether some teams are actively trying to be competitive. They are also questioning how teams are spending their revenue. And, they have a point:
The graph above shows total free agency spending compared to league-wide revenue by year. It does not include extensions signed by players currently under contract.
More from Around the Foghorn
- SF Giants: The closer of the present and future has arrived
- BOGO 50% off on San Francisco Giants shirts at BreakingT
- SF Giants: Brandon Belt hits IL with fractured thumb
- SF Giants: 2021 team is approaching franchise milestone
- SF Giants: Brandon Belt is a qualifying offer candidate
It shows that free agency spending has been mostly stagnant in recent years. There was a spike in 2016, but that seems to be an outlier. The contracts handed out to Machado and Harper make up a high percentage of free agency spending in 2019. However, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still free agents, so they are not part of the calculation yet.
At the same time, league-wide revenue continues to increase substantially each year. So, an argument many players are making is why are teams seemingly reluctant to spend on free agents. And, why are teams seemingly reluctant to put the best product on the field?
A number of factors could answer these questions. Teams are becoming increasingly aware that buying free agents means you are likely paying for players who are at the start of their regression years. This is due in part to the length of time it takes for players to even reach free agency based on current collective bargaining rules.
In addition to this, teams are showing a willingness to openly scale back their payroll in an effort to lose and collect higher draft picks. This is known as “tanking.” Some teams have had recent success pursuing this strategy.
As a result, quality free agents remain on the market as many teams are choosing not to spend.
There are several issues with baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement. These issues will hopefully be addressed before the current agreement expires.
However, the contracts handed out to Machado and Harper do not prove that the system is fine. There are flaws, and awareness regarding these flaws continue to spread. Longoria is merely shedding light on one of baseball’s bigger issues.