The 2019 MLB offseason has been a slog. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who were supposed to fetch record-breaking deals, both remain unsigned. As a result, the free agent market has basically frozen for all players and many free agents have been either forced to take discounts or remain unsigned.
However, this is not the first time that we have seen a lack of offseason spending. Last year, teams were also unwilling to commit big money to free agents, leading some to claim that MLB owners and front offices were colluding against the players. But even after last season, this year's market is still awful in comparison, ESPECIALLY compared to 2017.
MLB Payrolls from 2017, 2018 and 2019. You can see the big difference between 2017 and the others. pic.twitter.com/AThS21nwU0— Thomas Carannante (@TurkeyTom17) February 12, 2019
Also, if you look deeper into the numbers, considering payroll doesn't tell the entire story behind free agency, we can see that MLB teams, according to Spotrac, spent $1.39 billion on free agents in 2017 compared to $1.47 billion in 2018 and $1.07 billion in 2019.
And as for free-agent signings, MLB teams spent $1.39 billion in 2017, $1.47 billion in 2018 and $1.07 billion in 2019, according to @spotrac— Thomas Carannante (@TurkeyTom17) February 12, 2019
Free Agency Spending
To get a broad sense of the money available to spend, it is necessary to look at league-wide spending.
At this point, one could reason that team spending has decreased because last year's free agent class was deeper beyond Harper and Machado. However, we also thought teams were holding back last year to save up for this year's star-studded class, but that didn't happen either. That proves something is up.
The Arbitration System and Tanking
1 solution I like to prevent “tanking” in #MLB is draft lottery for 1st round only…all non-playoff teams go into equal lottery….then 2nd round goes back to worst to best record.Also, hard cap at top & floor at bottom of payroll structures but based on 3yr periods not single yr— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) February 3, 2019