The slow unfolding of this winter's hot stove season has once again placed competitive issues on the front burner in the tug-of-war between baseball's labor and management. The markets have changed. Players don't like it, and neither do their agents. You can hardly blame them, but it's not clear that there really is anyone to blame. The system itself might have slipped into obsolescence.
My bugaboo when it comes to this topic is that I sense an emergent groupthink emanating from analysis-fueled front offices. Teams are valuing players the same way. They have reached similar conclusions when it comes to analyzing career patterns and the questions of supply and demand. This, in conjunction with a startling deference to the luxury tax threshold, has broken the current model of free agency.
However, a related issue that might be just as important is the sheer number of rebuilding teams. We certainly hear about it a lot, and it's a factor cited by agent Scott Boras, among others. A conservative count of the current big league landscape suggests that at least nine teams are not in win-now mode as we start to close in on spring training. What's worse, few of the teams that are clearly trying to win now are actually behaving like it.
One possible factor in this is baseball's current six-division, 10-postseason-team format.