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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bradenton, the new house of free agents

Por Fidel Orihuela

After a very cold and static winter for more than a hundred free agents, the Major League Baseball Player Association (MLBPA), has decided to open a spring camp in Bradenton, Florida, so that the numerous group of unemployed players can start working in order to face 2018’s season, which will start in a month and a half.

For the first time since 1995 something like this happens and it is only fair to say that the precedents are not good. Twenty-three years ago, the MLBPA decided to open Homestead, 40 miles south of Miami, after the lockout that ended the season in 1994. Now the situation is far from being that dramatic. There is no strike, but the fact that a hundred players are still without a contract bothers the MLBPA considerably. The Association doesn’t understand why the teams are being so cautious at a time in which the industry is generating the biggest amount of money of all times.

Among the most relevant players still without a contract, there are names like the third baseman Mike Moustakas, the slugger Jose Bautista and the ace Jake Arrieta, all of them with solid performances over the last few years. Both Moustakas and Arrieta were champions of the World Series in the years of 2015 and 2016 respectively. It seems that they, just like many of the other players that are still in need of a contract, have entered the market with very high expectations and the franchises have decided not to satisfy them, considering the excessively lucrative contracts of the past that are now considered dead weights.

For instance, the signing-up of Albert Pujols with Anaheim, Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier with the Dodgers, or the fiasco suffered by the New York Yankees with Alex Rodríguez, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury are still fresh in the minds of the general managers, which have opted for shorter contracts with a significant less amount of money. This way has proven to be more efficient, but it leaves the players unprotected. They all wish to obtain contracts that will guarantee them long terms playing for a team. Nevertheless, only a few have achieved their goals and more than a hundred are still without a job, a fact that has forced the MLBPA to open a training camp in March, at the IMG Academy of Bradenton, Florida. Bo Porter, manager of the Houston Astros in the years of 2013 and 2014, will be the head of the spring camp.