If you've found yourself frustrated by the slow-burning free agency period in baseball this offseason, just know you're not alone. Even some of MLB's best players have been annoyed by the lack of action on the open market leading up to spring training.
Several players have already been outspoken on the matter, and you can now add J.D. Martinez to that list. The Red Sox slugger spoke to WEEI's Rob Bradford this week and expressed his frustrations with the way the market and negotiations are trending.
"One-hundred-percent," Martinez said when asked if he expected free agents to be drastically undervalued once again this year compared to years past. "I knew it was Why wouldn't it? They got away with it last year, why wouldn't they do it again? What's going to happen? Nothing.
"It's embarrassing for baseball, it really is. It's really embarrassing for the game. You have a business. They say, 'The market is down, the market is changing.' The market is higher than it's ever been. People are making more money than ever, and they're trying to suppress it. It's more of a race towards the bottom now than a race towards the top. You can go right now through everyone's lineup and you already know who's going to be in the playoffs. What's the fun in that? We might as well just fast-forward to the end of the season."
Last offseason, Martinez was one of those free agents who was impacted by a slow market. Despite months of rumors and back-and-forth negotiations, he didn't sign his five-year, $110 million contract with Boston until Feb. 26th. Martinez was the biggest shoe to drop that late last year, and things have been even slower in the 2018-19 offseason.
Numerous marquee free agents have been holding out for better deals throughout the offseason and are still waiting to sign a new contract even as spring training games get underway. Of course, Manny Machado finally came off the board when he signed a huge $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres last week, but other major names -- most notably Bryce Harper -- are still unsigned in the final week of February.
So what needs to happen for change moving forward? According to Martinez, the biggest factor may lie in teams being more incentivized to win, thus being more willing to invest money in impact players.
"We just gotta go to the drawing board," he said. "The players' association comes, sits down with the CBA, and we gotta figure out how we're going to counter it. The game has to change. We have to incentivize to win, not to lose.
"Losing is incentivized now. You have 80 percent of the teams trying to lose. We were at a point where we were getting paid well and everything was fair. We saw where the product was going, everything was moving forward. Then we're like, 'OK, we're not going to push the envelope fighting for money. Let's fight for an extra bus.' Again, I was a lot younger than I am now. I wasn't aware of those things. When you get older, you go through arbitration, you start seeing it affect you directly, and you get a lot more involved. This has definitely been eye-opening to everyone. Not just myself, but all of the players. There obviously have to be some changes.
"There's nothing we can do now. It's going to be like this for the next three years. But it's what they wanted. We've got to make sure we have our ducks aligned for 2021. I think the public knows. (Commissioner Rob) Manfred and that side is going to have lots of things to think about on their end, and the players' association will have a lot of things to think about on our end."