Home news Harper, Machado, Kimbrel, Keuchel on the market open fields

Harper, Machado, Kimbrel, Keuchel on the market open fields

Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel will not be around when the bat and ball bags will be open during spring training in Florida and Arizona this week.

They are among the dozens of free agents still looking for work, flanked by Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez.

For the second straight winter, the fields are opening up with many lists in an exceptional stream.

"The market will be resolved," said St. Louis Cardinals president Bill DeWitt Jr. at last week's owners' meetings. "There is a lot of time between the end of the season and the spring training, and maybe there is not much sense of urgency from anywhere."

Of the 164 players who exercised free agency rights at the end of last year's World Series, 84 announced agreements on the eve of spring training. This rose from 65 out of 166 to about the same point last season, but down from 105 out of 158 two years ago.

Boston added JD Martinez on February 26th and Philadelphia brought Jake Arrieta on March 12th. Only 26 of the free agents of last season reached agreements, but some with large-denominated contracts have succumbed after the last games: Yu Darvish has joined the Chicago Cubs February 13th, went 1-3 and has not launched 20 May due to problems in the arms. Eric Hosmer perfected his deal with San Diego on February 19 and hit a career worse than .253 with 69 RBI. Alex Cobb signed with Baltimore on March 26th and went 5-16.

A long negotiation process means that clubs have lost time in marketing new acquisitions, which seems particularly significant for a sport that is shrinking for three consecutive years of declining attendance. The average attendance fell below 30,000 last year for the first time since 2003.

"We want signed players, especially star players, I wish they were signed and ready to go," said baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday. "We have another week before they have to report, I'm really confident that it will be resolved during that period of time."

Oakland took the field first, starting training on Monday in Mesa, Arizona. Seattle follows on Tuesday in Peoria, Arizona, with both teams starting the race early because they open the season in Tokyo on March 20-21, a week before the start of the other teams. Every other club launches practice on Wednesday or Thursday except for Atlanta, which runs until Saturday.

Six new managers are in charge for the second spring training and five of them are beginner skippers of the great league for the second consecutive year. Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota), David Bell (Cincinnati), Brandon Hyde (Baltimore), Charlie Montoyo (Toronto) and Chris Woodward (Texas) are beginners who run a great league bench, flanked by the Los Angeles Angels' Brad Ausmus, Detroit manager from 2014-17.

One of the first-time managers of last year was Alex Cora, who brought Boston to his fourth world title in 15 seasons. The Red Sox hope to become the first team to win consecutive titles from the New York Yankees of 1998-2000.

"Repeating is difficult," said Cora. "Start with the players, people will talk about the hangover and all this and the banquet circuit, it's part of it, but they were pretty disciplined."

The new heads of baseball operations are responsible for three teams: Mike Elias (Baltimore), Farhan Zaidi (San Francisco) and Brodie Van Wagenen (New York Mets).

Among the main operations of the offseason, Philadelphia obtained the catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami, St. Louis obtained the first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona and the New York Mets obtained the second base Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz of Seattle. In the free agent market until now, Washington has added Patrick Corbin, still left-handed, and the AJ exterior of Los Angeles Dodgers. Pollock, Atlanta got third baseman Josh Donaldson and Colorado took second base Daniel Murphy.

By March 28, when most teams will open, many lists will look significantly different. The Mets and Phillies have greatly strengthened theirs. Others have chosen reconstruction and seem to have little chance of reaching the postseason: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kanas City, Miami, Seattle and Toronto.

"There have always been players available in February or March," said Van Wagenen. "I think there were more names that were more recognizable than in the past."


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