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Kenley Jansen, Eric Hosmer express concern with slow free agent market


Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Dodgers as a free agent in January 2017. That’s relatively late for a player of his caliber to remain unsigned. First baseman Eric Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres last month, which was much later than top free agent hitters have typically signed. Both players expressed concern about the free agent market in separate articles by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports.

Jansen seemed bewildered that there are only a handful of teams actively trying to compete. “There’s one team competing for the title in the NL East!” Jansen said. He continued, “They’re just not trying that hard. I think they are competing for the championship of revenue (profit). I think they are trying to see who can have the most revenue (profit). I think they don’t care about the trophy. No disrespect, but we want to see more teams be competitive.”

Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas are among the free agents still without jobs. Jansen said, “There are at least ten guys out there who can help you win a championship, and they’re not in the game. Obviously, something’s going on. We all know what’s going on in baseball. Every year there’s tanking. It’s obvious. They just made it more obvious this year.”

Hosmer thinks much the same. He said, “[Commissioner Rob] Manfred says the integrity of the game is first and foremost, that’s what we want to protect. But the way the process went down this year, something is wrong with it.” Hosmer went on, saying, “I don’t think all the teams are trying to be competitive or doing everything they can to protect the integrity of the game. If that was the case, why are guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas still on the market? That raises a lot of red flags. When you’ve got guys that are proven at this level, and have done it for many years at this level that are still on the market looking for jobs, that just tells you something isn’t right about it. Carlos Gonzalez is one of the better hitters this game has ever seen. Moose is an All-Star who hit 38 homers. And they’re still looking for jobs? That’s mind-boggling. It makes you think about things.”

Jansen doesn’t want the players to have to strike (which, as Heyman notes, is not allowed by law until the collective bargaining agreement expires), but realizes it may be a necessity if things don’t change. He said, “We have to start preparing ourselves. It may be a strike. Or it may not be. Hopefully it gets resolved without a strike. The fans don’t want a strike. The players don’t want a strike. Hopefully, it gets resolved. But if we don’t have any resolution, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. Nobody wants to go there. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” Jansen also worries fans may turn away from baseball with so many teams not putting in effort to win. “At some point, they’re going to say, ‘Why should we keep watching baseball?'”

Tim Tebow homers in spring training game

Tim Tebow
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Mets minor league outfielder Tim Tebow hit a two-run home run during Tuesday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. It’s his first spring training home run since beginning his professional baseball career in late 2016.

Tebow, 32, is, of course, a former college football legend. He had a much-anticipated NFL career that ended up brief and disappointing, prompting a change of vocation. Tebow was passable with Double-A Binghamton in 2018, but the Mets promoted him to Triple-A for the 2019 season anyway. That was a mistake. Through 264 plate appearances, Tebow hit .163/.240/.255, ranking as the worst hitter in the minor leagues.

Tebow also walked along with the homer in three plate appearances on Tuesday. While it’s a solid early showing, Tebow participating with the other big leaguers or soon-to-be big leaguers in spring training is something of a sideshow. If he were a regular ballplayer working his way up the ranks, he likely would have been cut after last season. He certainly wouldn’t have been given an invitation to big league camp the next year.

There are aspects of the Tebow situation to respect: that he’s athletic and dedicated enough to attempt a professional career in another sport, for example. He moves tickets and merchandise. But one can’t help but wonder about the roster spot he’s holding that would otherwise go to a more deserving player.