Free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales still haven't found deals to their liking with opening day a little more than two weeks away. The precious days of preparation, figuring out their roles and fitting in with new teammates are slowly ticking away. But rather than express urgency to get a deal done before the season opens, it appears both men are willing to wait until after the June draft to sign a new deal.
This according to their agent, the infamous Scott Boras, who places blame on MLB's current compensation system for free agents for changing the outlooks of two of his more notable clients.
"The system they've been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency," Boras said. "They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now -- and we're still taking offers on those -- or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens.
"Like any players, they want to play baseball. But they're also looking at the long-term aspect of their careers. This system has placed them not in free agency, but it's placed them in a jail."
Because they turned down qualifying offers from their former teams, both players would cost a new team their highest unprotected draft pick should the contract be signed before the June draft. It's the same condition that had teams hesitant to sign Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana, and ultimately led each to signing one-year deals under their perceived market values.
The system is creating a lot of frustration for compensation free agents that are in that second or third tier. They're all players with value, but teams really only want to spend big money and lose a draft pick on elite free agents or players who fill desperate needs if they can help it. It leaves free agents like Drew and Morales, who's markets were difficult to predict four months ago, in a difficult position. They have to quickly decide between accepting the qualifying offer, this year valued at $14.1 million, or testing the market looking for a longer term security. In more and more situations we're seeing that's a lose-lose decision.
Of course, the loophole in the system that Boras' clients seem content on exercising allows free agents to wait until after the June draft. At that point, no compensation is required. But even that seems more like a losing scenario. No player really wants to lose one-third of the season, because that means less money now and fewer stats to point at the next time his contract comes up.
Basically, both players are back to square one of free agency, only with less money to be made and less time to prepare for the season.
For Drew, that could be a deal with the Detroit Tigers.
I would not bet against rumor sending Stephen Drew to Tigers
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 15, 2014
When the next offer does come, they'll have to decide if it's worth taking a likely short-term deal and gambling on their value sustaining or improving in 2014, or if they're better off waiting to see what comes along. Neither sounds particularly enticing, but until the system is tweaked again, likely when the CBA comes up again in 2016, that's the position they're in and the position future free agents will be stuck in as well.
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