Major League Baseball (MLB) free agency started on Nov. 1, 2020 and no one has made a move. While the National Basketball Association (NBA) is taking advantage of its offseason in order to excite fans, the MLB is losing both its fans and money.
Waiting for the four biggest MLB stars, pitcher Trevor Bauer, catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder George Springer, and utility infielder D.J. Le Mahieu, to sign a contract has become as entertaining as watching paint dry. Fans and the media alike are losing patience and interest as there is nothing enticing to report.
Thus far, the MLB has had three important moves this offseason, followed by hundreds of minor-league deals. Former Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton went from Tampa to Atlanta, signing a one-year, $15 million contract. Relief pitcher Trevor May is taking his pitching and Twitch stream from Minnesota to the Big Apple, signing a two-year, $15.5 million contract with the Mets. Catcher James McCann also made his way to the Mets, signing a 4-year, $40 million contract with New York’s new rising team. New Mets owner Steve Cohen has promised to use his billions of dollars to bring the Mets a World Series trophy soon. Additionally, Winter Meetings, a time where the big signings and trades usually occur, was moved online because of the global climate.
Usually in the MLB offseason, the stars set the market. These stars know how much they’re worth and they’re looking to get paid. However, with COVID-19 affecting team revenue, most teams are in a crunch to try and pay these stars. LeMahieu looks to return to the New York Yankees, yet the player and the team are reported to be $25 million apart in their salary negotiations. The Philadelphia Phillies hope to retain Realmuto, but the team is almost broke and is trying to trade their more expensive players to free up the cap space so that they can sign him. The big market teams struggling to garner the money to pay their stars is a major red flag for the MLB. The NBA is giving their teams $30 million for COVID-19 relief. Without money, the teams cannot afford the power players. Without star power, networks are less interested in the sport, and without television time, fans will continue to lose interest.
The loss of media coverage is blatant, as ESPN covers basketball and football almost exclusively at this point. In this MLB offseason, where only a few minor moves have been made, ESPN will give the MLB approximately 30 seconds before returning attention to their rampant football and basketball discussions. These sports are retaining their fans, and as such, they are money makers for media outlets. The monotony of the MLB offseason is not making fans clamor for pitchers and catchers to report for the start of spring training to start, which means the league is not generating the necessary excitement to motivate fans to tune in this spring.
The MLB should have pushed free agency back a month or two, starting in December or January. With tighter deadlines, the negotiations could have generated more heat. Generating more heat would have meant more revenue prospects as well as fan excitement. Plus, baseball wouldn’t have been overshadowed by football or the start of the NBA season. Now we wait impatiently for something, anything to happen. However long that might take.