Major League Baseball released a statement in response to MLBPA chief Tony Clark's comments about the stagnant free agent market, where he claimed that teams "engaged in a race to the bottom" are threatening the "integrity" of the game.
"Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans," MLB said. "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.
"It is common at this point in the calendar to have large numbers of free agents unsigned," MLB's statement continued. "What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers, some in nine figures. It is the responsibility of players' agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement. To lay responsibility on the Clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted, and inflammatory."
Clark, the head of the MLB Player's Union, released a statement on Tuesday about the market, and the impact on it by teams that are not attempting to compete.
"A record number of talented free agents remain unemployed in an industry where revenues and franchise values are at record highs," Clark said. "Spring training has always been associated with hope for a new season. This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game."
Last Friday, prominent player agent Brodie Van Wagenen, whose clients include Yoenis Cespedes and Jacob deGrom, suggested in a letter that players could boycott Spring Training due to the stagnant free agent market. Van Wagenen cited potential collusion by the owners as a reason.
Roughly 125 free agents remain unsigned with just over a week to go until Spring Training begins, including many of the top free agents, such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Yu Darvish, and Jake Arrieta.
There has been a trend in recent years of teams tearing down completely in order to restock their farm system while seeking sustained success years down the road. The Cubs and Astros recently employed that strategy, resulting in World Series titles in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The Marlins, who have traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon this offseason, are among the teams who are arguably not intent on competing this season.