Theories abound as to why good players remain unsigned

Veterans Marlon Byrd and Jeff Francoeur remain useful assets for a big league squad, but both are still unemployed. AP Photo, Getty Images

The final details in Howie Kendrick's deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers sent ripples of concern through the minds of veteran free agents still unsigned, as well as those of their agents.

Kendrick has been among the most reliable sources of production during his career, his batting average never deviating outside of the range of .279 to .322 in any of the 10 seasons he has played, and consistently falling within the .285 to .297 arc over his past five seasons. Defensively, he has always been a decent if unspectacular second baseman; when the Dodgers added him over Dee Gordon before the 2015 season, part of their thinking at the time was that he'd upgrade the defense, at least slightly.

And yet Kendrick's new contract calls for him to make less in 2016 than Chase Utley, who is coming off a year in which he batted .212 in 107 games but signed early in the offseason. Kendrick will make $5 million in 2016, $5 million in 2017, with another $10 million deferred without interest.

Within a broader societal context, it's great money, of course, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, it can be said unequivocally that Kendrick's decision to turn down a $15.8 million qualifying offer in November was a mistake.

But Kendrick's negotiating surrender with the Dodgers was a desperate play for employment, at a time when there are still dozens of unsigned free agents. "And not just fringe guys," said one executive the other day. "Guys in the middle, good players with experience."

How about Jeff Francoeur, who played a positive role for the Phillies last season; he hit .258 with 13 homers, and by all accounts, he was an important teammate for a team that had to slog through a managerial change on its way to the worst record in the majors. Francoeur still doesn't have a job.

Or Shane Victorino, who played an important role for Boston's championship team in 2013 and hit .325 against lefties in 2014. Victorino has been working out in Las Vegas, working on switch-hitting again, and has been telling agent John Boggs that he has never been in better physical condition -- something that any team with an available scout (which all of them have) can check out for themselves. Victorino is unemployed.