Baseball NEEDS a Winter Deadline

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As the baseball offseason continues to roll on, high end free agents still have yet to sign.  Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, AJ Pollock, and Dallas Kuechel are some of the players still available.  Other players that were thought to be dealt like JT Realmuto also remain with their original team.  Why are the class’s greatest talents taking so long to sign?  I don’t have an answer (I do have my opinions) but it is not a positive thing.  I don’t think it is good for the MLB market or baseball fans.  I agree with Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski.  Major League Baseball should implement a “Winter Deadline” to improve the offseason for the teams, the players and the fans. 

Photo courtesy of sbnation.com
Baseball’s Winter Meetings have passed.  Christmas has come and gone.  We are now into the New Year and teams are still waiting for answers from the best free agents.  Many baseball fans already dislike the pace of play during the season.  Over the last two offseasons, the pace hasn’t been any bit faster.  Last season my favorite team and 2018 World Series Champion, the Boston Red Sox, didn’t sign JD Martinez until February 26, 2018.  Obviously I am happy they brought Martinez on board but it didn’t have to take so long.  And that trend seems to be playing out once again this year. 

There aren’t many rumors coming from the baseball hot stove.  Members from both sides are slow playing these major negotiations.  I have been a baseball fan for a long time.  I have never seen the offseason activity be so drawn out.  Baseball’s Winter Meetings meant something.  It was marked on the calendar of all the baseball fanatics.  Franchises’ biggest offseason moves used to be tackled during this hectic week.  Sure deals were made before and after but the biggest fireworks went off during the meetings.  I think a deadline will bring back the glory days of the Winter Meetings and reignite the baseball hot stove altogether.

A deadline will make the offseason more exciting, and I also think it will help out the franchises and the players.  I understand why things are slowing down.  These professionals are negotiating deals with millions and sometimes even billions of dollars on the line.  There is no need to rush a decision of that magnitude.  But it is the MLB’s responsibility to control the offseason.  These franchises are more than capable of making smart educated decisions even if the decision comes within a two or three month window.  

It’s time for a winter deadline.  Of course a deadline would help the aggressive teams, but not at the expense of the careful ones.  Both types of franchises will be able to operate as they wish.  A deadline won’t hurt either side’s ability to make the most money.  This is what everyone is looking for.  Dombrowski thinks people “naturally work toward deadlines.”  I would have to agree.

MLB franchises are hard to defend.  Rarely are fans compassionate for what is perceived as “the man.”  It makes sense.  These front offices consist of many people, some of who make lots and lots of money.  Fan don’t always agree with their decisions either.   But try to think of the offseason front from organization’s point of view.  These long, slow moving offseasons do not help the organizations or their ability to build a team.  The extended amount of time can handcuff a franchise.  And result in missing out on their plans B, C, D, E or even F.

I think that is happening to the Red Sox right now.  The organization clearly wants to have Craig Kimbrel back as their closer.  Some rumors have mentioned Kimbrel and his team may be coming out with very high demands.  There are not many people in the baseball community that believe the demands will be met.  They’re not realistic.  With no reason to soften your stance, these negotiations can go on way too long.  Boston is playing a game of chicken with their former closer.  Deadlines give these games a time limit and organizations an opportunity to pivot at the last minute.

I don’t believe it would lower any teams’ willingness to spend money.  Teams have budgets.  Their finances are monitored closely, and franchises plan how much they are willing to spend ahead of time.  Adding a deadline will speed up the process.  The back and forth will still go on between agents and teams, but there will be a finish line.

Would a winter deadline hurt the players’ ability to optimize their earnings?  I don’t think it would.  There hasn’t been any proof of that happening over the last two seasons. Which I previously mentioned have been some of the slowest moving off-seasons in recent history.  Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Gonzalez are all players that didn’t get what they initially asked for last year.  I mean they all made a lot of money, but still settled for less.  

Even JD Martinez’s monster deal with the Red Sox was smaller than the early rumors stated.  And the deal also has two or three opt out clauses in it.  Speaking of which, opt-out clauses, opt-in clauses, and options are at an all time high.  Is that a good or bad thing?  I honestly have no clue, but it just sounds like a little extra to me. 

A faster paced bidding period can drive up the prices of the players’ contracts.  Look at how well it has done for NFL players recently.  Their free agent period is short and so intense.   I believe it allows guys to get paid more.  Professional franchises are looking to improve their roster.  To do so there is always a fierce competition to add talent from other rosters.  All teams are vying for these elite athletes’ services.  A shorter window will equal stronger bidding and higher contracts.

Obviously I have given this a lot of thought.  So Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, if you are reading this. here are my ideas.  Firstly I don’t think that the deadline should be early in the offseason.  Give the teams a few months after the World Series to conduct whatever research they want.  The General Manager meetings (in November) can be the first chance for players and teams to land framework to deals.  And at the Winter Meetings (in December) everything can wrap up.  That would create a spectacle baseball fans would love in the middle of football season.  The ideal deadline would be right before the Christmas holiday.  I think players and organizations alike would enjoy having no pressing business to handle around the holiday season.

If players decide to remain unsigned after the deadline, that player will not be able to sign until mid season.  Around the trade deadline (7/31) the window will open to sign again.  Players can decide to sacrifice game checks for half a year for the chance to sign when teams are most desperate.  You can imagine Bryce Harper signing a half year $20 million dollar contract to a team chasing a ring.  Then he could re enter free agency the following off season if he doesn’t re sign.  I think this allows players to ultimately hold their destinies in their own hands.  The gamble is up to them at the end of the day.  But with a deadline they can’t leave franchises dangling on their hooks.  Teams and players will just have to worry about getting ready for Spring Training after the New Year.  

Stop the mundane and kick start the madness.  MLB please implement a Winter Acquisition Deadline.

P.S.  Mr. Manfred, there is what you call it right there.


Follow me on Twitter @Matty_wests1de

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Baseball NEEDS a Winter Deadline
Baseball NEEDS a Winter Deadline
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