In the midst of another remarkably slow market, a few folks on the players' side whisper a dreaded word -- collusion -- but more seem to mention another one.
Every standard operating procedure is being reassessed and re-evaluated, as if all front offices have adopted the mantra once used by former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein as Boston rose with the tide of analytics: "We don't know s---."
For example, agents could expect teams to throw them a negotiation bone when talking about split contracts for veterans invited to spring training on minor league deals, in the form of a $1 million salary if the player was added to the 25-man roster.
Not anymore. Some club officials now haggle over those relative nickels, offering $800,000 or $900,000, rather than the seven-figure round number -- because, as they explain to agents, that stuff can add up.
No group has been hit harder financially by the industry's deep dive into analytics than the outfielders, who used to annually comprise one of the higher-paid groups of free agents.