Column: Are players too greedy, or are owners too stingy?

New York Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, left, welcomes All-Star infielder Jed Lowrie to the team after Lowrie signed with the Mets, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

“Why not the Mets?”

This is something Mets fans have been asking for years now. And it hasn’t been until recently that the national baseball writers are starting to spread that gospel. On Thursday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote an entire column on how absurd it is that the Mets aren’t in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, especially when they’re pressed for outfield depth.

The thing is though? It’s not just the Mets this time. There are 27 other teams who aren’t in on Machado or Harper, and that’s a problem that could have drastic ramifications for the future of the game.

This historical free agent class, boasting the likes of Harper, Machado, Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel and other very talented players, has been highly anticipated for a while now. But with rumors of collusion swirling around baseball for a while now, and with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in 2021, there might be a player’s strike on the horizon.

It’s a crime that more teams are not pursuing Machado or Harper. At the same time, free agent price tags have been skyrocketing and only continue to climb. Scott Boras is of course notorious for being a hard-knock agent who only expects the highest offer for his clients.

This has become detrimental, though. As more and more owners are electing to play it safe and read the market before making a move, agents like Boras and players feel they deserve more and more money for their performance. Are players getting greedy or are owners getting stingy? Both can be true at the same time.

The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal on the final day of the regular season, which he promptly turned down. This is an insane amount of money. But Boras wants Harper to get $400 million, which would be not only unprecedented, but absolutely nuts. Giancarlo Stanton currently holds the record for most guaranteed money at $325 million over 13 years.

There’s no doubt Harper, at age 26, is one of the most marketable and talented young players in the game right now. But it’s not like he’s hitting at the same clip his asking price is. After a great 2017 season in which his team faced another crushing NLDS defeat, he regressed in 2018 (despite leading the majors in walks with 130) and the Nationals fell in the ranks with him.

But his poor 2018 isn’t the reason owners aren’t willing to drop everything for him. No player not named Mike Trout is worth that kind of money. And with the way the market has been trending, any team not named the Yankees wouldn’t be shelling out that kind of money anyway.

There are two sides to every coin, though. Even with asking prices climbing, fewer teams are spending on free agents regardless of price. After the Astros proved a powerhouse can be built almost exclusively through top draft picks, other teams realized they didn’t have to spend on every big free agent to succeed. But owners have taken this to an extreme by not even showing interest in players that would undoubtedly elevate their team to the next level.

Sure, Harper’s asking price is astronomical. But with three weeks to go until Spring Training and barely any rumors to point to, it should stand to reason that many teams could snatch him up for a bargain, relatively. Every team could benefit from a player of that talent level.

The Mets should be in on Harper and Machado. And so should the rest of baseball. But if blockbuster players are wondering why they’re not getting a deal… maybe they should rethink their asking price.


Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.