Across Major League Baseball, pitchers and catchers are reporting this week with full-squad workouts set to follow as early as this weekend in the case of the A’s and Mariners.
But a number of MLB superstars, including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, and Dallas Keuchel, won’t be joining their peers on the field.
Like other free agents such as Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, and Gio Gonzalez, Harper, Machado, Kimbrel, and Keuchel haven’t been signed despite the onset of spring training.
Last year, late free agent signings J.D. Martinez (Red Sox) and Jake Arrieta (Philadelphia) found success, but there were plenty of other late additions (Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Alex Cobb) who bombed with their new teams last season.
That may be part of the reason teams are hesitant to shell out big deals, but that reluctance certainly isn’t helping the league fight the impression that the system is broken.
“We want players signed, particularly star players. I wish they were signed and ready to go,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday. “We got another week before they have to report. I’m really hopeful that it’s going to get resolved during that period of time.”
All in all, of the 164 players who exercised free agency rights following last year’s World Series, 84 had deals by the open of spring training this week. That is up from 65 of 166 at this time last year but down from 105 of 158 two years ago.