ORACLE PARK — While sitting beyond center field in a tent under pouring rain, San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria gave the players’ side of the depressed free agent market.
After addressing what he’s done this offseason (took three to four weeks off to heal, then got back to hitting), Longoria addressed an Instagram post he made on Jan. 18, a post which critiqued what’s been perceived as some sort of collusion on the part of Major League owners, in terms of depressing the free agent market.
In that post, Longoria said, “We are less then [sic] a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.”
Or course, the Giants are in the running to sign All-Star Bryce Harper, and met with him last week in Las Vegas, but with names like Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Matt Wieters, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Craig Gentry, Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera, Evan Gattis, Gio Gonzalez, Clay Buchholz, Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson and Craig Kimbrel still unsigned, there are plenty of big names without spring training destinations.
“I have a lot of friends who are unsigned, and I’ve also heard from a lot of guys that free agency is no fun,” Longoria said. In his post, Longoria included photos of Harper, Machado, Kimbrel and Keuchel. “I don’t regret not going to free agency. That decision was pretty good. We as an organization here are pretty lucky. This organization spends money. We’re never going to have to worry about this organization not putting the best product on the field. There are other organizations that aren’t like that, that are intentionally tanking to get a draft pick instead of signing guys.”
The message, Longoria said, wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, just sent in hopes of making the point that the younger players in the league will be hurt by the practice that worked so well for the Houston Astros, who tanked to get draft picks, and wound up with the likes of Gonzalez, Gattis and Keuchel, in addition to still-under-contract Carlos Correia, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.
“That’s the message from me,” Longoria said. “It’s for players like Steven Duggar, our younger players and who are going into free agency and arbitration three years down the line.”
Right-hander Jeff Samardzija echoed those sentiments, saying that he hoped that owners and management were as competitive in trying to build teams as players are in trying to win games.
Longoria went on to place the onus on owners for the recent propositions to quicken pace of play.
“Owners are out there making $300 million on TV deals, so now we have 3-minute commercial breaks between every inning, instead of 30 seconds to a minute,” he said. “That’s why the game has gotten longer. I don’t think there’s a way to fix that because it’s all revenue dollars.”
As for some of the other rules changes in the ether, the universal designated hitter got some run.
The union side of Samardzija, he said, would be happy for the addition of the 26th player, and the universal designated hitter. The baseball fan in Samardzija, though?
“You guys ever watch Cueto and Rich Hill face each other? That’s entertainment at its finest,” he told fans at the Q&A. “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Longoria was optimistic about the players’ union and ownership coming to a collective bargaining agreement when the current CBA runs out in 2020.
“Nobody wants to stop playing baseball,” Longoria said. “We don’t want to sit at home this time of year. There’s a lot of work that can be done in the meantime to make things better. As a whole, nobody’s thinking about striking. Nobody’s planning on striking. We’re planning on working on these issues in the two years leading up to it.”
Samardzija, Longoria and Duggar, in their group session, addressed the Bryce Harper rumors. A league source says no announcement is eminent.
“Rumors are rumors,” Samardzija said. “Being on the trade block amongst rumors myself, I know they seldom carry weight. Seems like Bryce is waiting for his market to grow a little bit more, so he invited a few more teams out. It’s so different with guys signing so late. Five years ago, guys were signing at Sinter meetings. We’re in sit-and-watch mode because it’s been such a long season … We will always take a Bryce Harper on your team. Always. 100 percent.”
Duggar, who would ostensibly see the young group of outfielders of which he is a part dwindle with the addition of Harper, said it would be “fun, for sure” to play with him.
“I mean, we’ll take him in our lineup,” Longoria said. “If he comes here, we’ll be happy. That’s as simple as that.”