It’s evident that the world of baseball is changing right in front of our eyes. If you ask Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez, it isn’t for the better.
It’s no secret that free agency has been moving at a snail’s pace this offseason for the Red Sox and the rest of the league. With big-name players still on the board and camps well underway, this isn’t the free agency we’re familiar with. With baseball doing better than ever as far as attendance and profits, the money should be flowing, but it’s not.
Rob Bradford of WEEI was able to capture J.D.’s thoughts recently and the DH isn’t happy with how things are going. While speaking to the media, J.D. was asked about the state of free agency and he didn’t hold anything back.
"“One-hundred-percent,” Martinez told WEEI.com when asked if he had an idea there would be a second straight offseason where free agents were being drastically more undervalued than in 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."
For the second free agent window in a row, teams have been very hesitant to spend money on players that could make their teams better. This goes back to the problem of teams not doing everything they can to get better to bolster up their draft picks and hope for a cheap reward.
In the recent rule change proposal, it was said that the league could be looking at changing the reward for tanking into a punishment. This could be huge for baseball as no longer could team post subpar lineups day after day just to stockpile their farm systems. This would set baseball apart from the other major sports and could change the game for the better. But, until then, baseball and free agency are in trouble.
"“When you have 80 percent of the teams trying to lose, there are only so many prospects out there worth fighting for,” he explained. “There aren’t too many Mookie Betts, Mike Trouts or Bryce Harpers out there to be grabbed. Those players only come around once every 10 years.”"
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Martinez is speaking from experience as he wasn’t signed to the Red Sox until spring training had already begun last season. We’re seeing much of the same so far this season as there were some major names on the market and of the big three: Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Craig Kimbrel, only Machado has been signed. Rumors are that Harper is getting closer to a deal with the Phillies but Kimbrel is still on the sidelines.
There have been some rumblings that the former Red Sox closer is even considering sitting out 2019 until he can receive the deal he wants, though his management has denied this claim. This may be a drastic response to the lack of interest in Kimbrel but it may also be the only way he’ll get the wages he desires. The big issue from J.D.’s point of view is that teams are making more money than ever and are more wary of spending it than ever as well.
Just look at the Red Sox, they’re not hurting for cash in any way at all, they’re even increasing ticket prices this season. But they’re hesitant to spend the money on players that could really boost their teams quality, despite ownership saying the opposite. Martinez also makes the point that before a single regular season game is played you can just look at a squad and take an educated guess on where they’ll go this season.
"“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.”"
An issue with just spending every penny you have is the doom and gloom of the Luxury Tax Penalty. Something the Red Sox are very familiar with. As we all know the point of the Luxury Tax is to try and level the playing field between the haves and have-nots. I personally dislike the Luxury Tax as it punishes teams for trying to do what it takes to better their rosters.
If you’re a small market team or one that has a decent payroll but still pale in comparison to major market teams, that’s on you. Create more enticing marketing to draw fans in, increase prices reasonably, hell get more investors. You should be doing whatever you need to in order for your team to be successful, that’s how business works.
If you’re a store manager and your store is underperforming there’s a good chance you’ll get the boot. It’s always the coaches that get the pink slip when much of the time the ownership/front office didn’t even give them the right tools for the job.
It seems that J.D. has a similar mindset in that teams need to be run like the businesses that they are. When it comes to trading or cutting a player “it’s just business,” but when some more money needs to be injected, it’s impossible. Luckily, the Red Sox don’t tend to shy away from spending money when necessary, as J.D. has learned. The Red Sox have some major names coming due in the near future, and they’ll need to open the checkbook to keep them.