Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, criticized MLB teams for what he called a "race to the bottom" as a number of marquee free agents have yet to sign new contracts.
The MLBPA shared a statement from Clark in which he said, "This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game":
Statement of #MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark Regarding the Integrity of the Game Declaración del Director Ejecutivo de MLBPA Tony Clark Sobre la Integridad del Deporte https://t.co/CMcTq09D3m https://t.co/AkBDLgNpM22018-2-6 19:04:25
MLB released a statement disputing Clark's assessment of the situation, which read in part: "Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans. Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win. In Baseball, it has always been true that Clubs go through cyclical, multi-year strategies directed at winning":
MLB Communications @MLB_PR
Major League Baseball issued the following statement today in response to the comments made by MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark: https://t.co/JE2AFRpEDZ2018-2-6 20:03:30
According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Stats & Information compared the 2017 and 2018 offseasons and found the number of three-year contracts signed by players has fallen from 27 to nine. In addition, overall spending in 2016 was $2.53 billion and then $1.45 billion a year ago. So far, $780 million has been spent on new contracts.
Starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb and position players Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and J.D. Martinez are among the notable free agents still without a home.
Brodie Van Wagenen, an agent who is the co-head of CAA Baseball, released a statement last week in which he said "there is a rising tide among players for radical change" and that "a fight is brewing." Van Wagenen threw out a boycott of spring training by multiple players as a means to effect change:
Brodie Van Wagenen @bvanwagenen
A rising tide... @MLB_PLAYERS https://t.co/jwkoiiI0yt2018-2-2 16:21:49
The MLBPA said shortly thereafter that it hasn't threatened the league with a spring training boycott and would advise against the strategy.
Crasnick reported the MLBPA has, however, floated the idea of holding a separate spring training for free agents who have yet to sign.