Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel – these names highlight the highly anticipated 2019 MLB Free Agent class. Yet, it is the middle of February and while teams arrive for Spring Training, none of these players have found a landing spot. 

Here’s a look inside the standstill.

What’s Happening?

For the second year in a row MLB free agency has crawled along without any major signings or even any sense of urgency for stars to sign. This doesn’t exactly bode well for a league that already has a reputation of being too slow placed. While the likes of Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock have inked multi year deals, fans across the country wait to see where the perennial All-Stars will sign.

Last year was the same long process with Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez signing February 13, 20 and 26, respectively. Jake Arrieta even waited until March 12th for his $75 Million deal with Philadelphia

Why is it Happening?

The first and most obvious reason why this is happening is because players like Harper and Machado (both represented by Scott Boras) want mega deals that team simply aren’t willing to match. After getting burned by contracts like Carl Crawford, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, GM’s are extremely hesitant to dish out long term mega-deals. 

However, even when teams do offer long terms deal, players want more. New York reportedly offered Machado: 7-8 years, $220 Million, and Harper turned down: 10 years, $300 Million from Washington. Boras is pushing his guys to hold out for a team to eventually cave into their demands, with Harper allegedly asking for $400 Million.

Some GM’s claim they are preferring to focus on their farm systems and developing young talent, rather than break the bank for one player. Justin Verlander is among those who aren’t buying that excuse. 

Another reason why is because, unlike other pro leagues, there is no salary cap in the MLB. This causes front offices to not worry as much about rushing to get deals done and remaining under budget for the upcoming year. There is the luxury tax, where teams pay for going over a certain amount, but most teams who can afford the amount don’t care about the fee.

Also, baseball isn’t the type of sport where a player has to be integrated into a system or learn a team’s playbook. It is more or less bringing your individual talent wherever the landing spot may be. They are still training on their own, so at this point they really aren’t falling behind other players in terms of preparation.

This means there is virtually no incentive to sign on either side.

How Can it be Fixed?

This is the million dollar question.

The reality is that right now, Harper / Machado / Keuchel will likely hold out until a team desperate to climb into relevance (Padres, White Sox, etc.) caves in. This needs to change.

It is all about creating that incentive to sign, instead of having the ability to drag free agency out. While I think creating a salary cap is far too drastic of a move, there is one rule change that could work: a free agent signing deadline.

Obviously I am no expert and don’t know the exact details, but it is a concept that could be effective if installed properly. It forces players and teams to get deals done, and makes for an intense off-season. Winter Meetings would have tons of action, and the off-season would have more of the exciting feel that the NBA and NFL deliver. 

As fans we are tired of sitting and waiting for months, this league is losing viewership and this could give it a jolt.

Your move, MLB.