Free agents have reportedly discussed starting their own spring training camp to prepare for the season. How could this impact the Boston Red Sox?
A cold winter may be stretched out a bit longer for the Boston Red Sox, as well as any other team pursuing one of the remaining free agents.
We are mere weeks away from when pitchers and catchers report to spring training yet several high-profile free agents remain on the market. One might expect the time crunch would put pressure on these players to settle for deals below what they valued themselves at in order to ensure they have a job when the season begins. Yet as the calendar creeps closer to spring it certainly doesn’t seem as if they are ready to cave.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, some free agents have discussed the possibility of staging their own spring training camp to mimic their usual routines to prepare for the upcoming season.
It’s not ideal for a player switching teams to show up late to join his new teammates in camp. However, having a separate camp for free agents at least ensures they are working out in a somewhat structured environment so they won’t fall behind. This reduces the risk of players who sign late getting off to a slow start this season.
J.D. Martinez, the top free agent target of the Red Sox, has been rumored to be willing to hold out into spring training if he doesn’t receive a satisfactory offer before then. It seemed like a bit of an empty threat at the time but if other players are willing to organize their own camp then the concept suddenly becomes more realistic.
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The Red Sox have a five-year offer on the table for Martinez thought to be in the range of between $100-125 million. The average annual value seems to be in the right ballpark but the 30-year old Martinez is seeking a deal longer than five years.
It may seem that the players banding together is a sign they are gaining leverage in free agent negotiations but that’s unlikely to be the case. If anything, it’s good for teams to see their top targets are trying to replicate a normal spring routine because it reduces the risk that they will enter the season rusty or be more prone to injuries.
It’s the players who take the bigger risk in waiting. If they were to suffer a significant injury during their makeshift camp it could potentially cost them millions, possibly resulting in the player not being signed at all. Once they agree to a deal, the player still gets paid even if they get injured and miss the season.
Players can hold out through spring if they want but Opening Day presents a deadline that few will challenge. They hurt themselves more than the teams by holding out into the regular season, which would almost certainly result in losing a prorated amount of the contract they eventually sign to make up for the missed games. These players have entered a staring contest with owners who have little incentive to blink.
The Red Sox want Martinez but they don’t need him. Not as much as Martinez needs to stay employed. We don’t seem to be nearing the finish line of this long offseason but the end will come eventually, whether these players get the deals they want or not.