By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
In recent years, baseball has been criticized as a sport that takes too long.
Perhaps it’s time to apply the same criticism to the offseason.
Once again, the Winter Meetings, baseball’s premier offseason event, came and went with a whimper. Bryce Harper remains unsigned, Manny Machado is still looking for his final destination, and only a handful of major trades have been consummated as we hit the halfway mark in December.
It seems like this winter has come to a grinding halt. We’re on the verge of another offseason that hurts the sport.
A change needs to be made.
It’s easy to envision a scenario in which Harper and Machado wait weeks, or even months, before they sign. That could hold up the market for dozens of other players as they wait for the dominos to fall.
Baseball doesn’t need another slow offseason, especially after last year’s action-starved debacle. J.D. Martinez, the best hitter on the market in 2017, didn’t sign until after spring training began.
God forbid that happens with Harper or Machado, two players baseball fans have been waiting for years to hit the market.
Baseball’s offseason used to be the premier offseason in all of sports, but in recent years it’s been surpassed by football and basketball. Nearly all of the activity in the NFL, NBA, and even the NHL comes in the first hours or days of free agency opening. It’s a blitz of action and excitement.
Baseball’s offseason doesn’t have that feel anymore.
Believe it or not, free agency in baseball has been officially open since a few days after the end of the World Series, yet only two of the top 10 free agents according to MLB Trade Rumors have signed deals to this point (JA Happ’s reported contract with the Yankees is not official yet).
It seems like there used to be a lot of movement at the Winter Meetings. Not anymore. Most of the trade talk this week centered around J.T. Realmuto, a good catcher who many baseball fans couldn’t pick out of a police lineup, let alone the Miami Marlins lineup.
How can this lack of buzz possibly be good for the game?
Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski gets it. This week, he suggested perhaps a signing deadline is needed to speed up the offseason.
Whether it’s implementing a deadline, pushing back the start of free agency to coincide with the Winter Meetings, or some other approach, this much is clear: baseball’s offseason needs fixing.
Like the game itself, it’s become too slow.