Has there been a change in strategy around baseball? What used to be the goal of nearly every player — earning the right to choose which team he plays for — might now be less appealing. From Nolan Arenado to Aaron Hicks, young players are beginning to see the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side. It means signing extensions with their current teams could be the norm more than the exception.
"Of course there's some hesitation that goes along with it [free agency]," Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant said recently.
Pitcher Kyle Hendricks added: "We're paying attention and taking note of what's happening. Regardless of all of that, I've always said I would love to be in Chicago for my whole career. I know how tough that would be in this day and age."
The Cubs are an example of a team that has been unable to sign any of its young players. But it's not for a lack of trying. Past discussions haven't resulted in a single long-term deal for players such as Bryant, Hendricks, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber. Common thinking is players want to test the free-agent market, figuring they can't do worse when all 30 teams can bid on them.
At least, that used to be the thinking. It still might be for stars such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but that leaves many others wondering about the free-agent landscape before the collective bargaining agreement expires in a little less than three years. After all, it's March and there are plenty of players without jobs.