Dollars and years are disappearing from MLB free agents

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

As negotiations between MLB players and owners reached their apex last summer, the union held together strongly, with Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty and others taking to social media to collectively reflect the group’s insistence on 100% pay.

But it seemed even then that inevitably the owners would find ways to offset revenues that were diminished by conducting games without fans in the stands. That effort began last spring with club employees being furloughed or laid off, with benefits being slashed, with minor leaguers left in lockdown and no games to play. The most significant cuts, however, hit the class of free agents that reached the market this winter, rollbacks that are staggering, even for the guys at the top of the player pyramid.

Last week, Trevor Bauer signed for what will likely be the highest single-season salaries in history thanks to his three-year, $102 million deal with the Dodgers. But as agents have noted, the structure of the deal reflects the larger shift that has occurred this winter. Bauer’s deal is worth less than one-third in guaranteed dollars than Gerrit Cole’s $324 million contract and less than half of the $245 of what Stephen Strasburg got.

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