Those deals would seem to undercut the suspicions of collusion that have been whispered among players and agents this winter. Early this month, Brodie Van Wagenen, a prominent agent, raged on Twitter about the market, writing that it “feels coordinated” and had raised “suspicion of institutional influence over the spending.” Van Wagenen also threatened a boycott of spring training, though the players union knocked down that idea.
Some free agents have been working out at a private camp set up by the union in Bradenton, Fla., but more and more have agreed to terms in recent days: Andrew Cashner (with Baltimore), Jason Vargas (Mets), Jaime Garcia (Toronto), Tony Watson (San Francisco), Eduardo Nunez (Boston) and now Hosmer.
Even so, there are plenty of unsigned players who could still help teams, including outfielder J.D. Martinez, third baseman Mike Moustakas, starter Jake Arrieta and closer Greg Holland. Those players are all represented by the agent Scott Boras, who also represents Hosmer. Boras often waits out teams to find the value he seeks, and Commissioner Rob Manfred needled him — though not by name — in a news conference on Thursday.
“Values are not dictated by big, thick, three-ring binders and rhetoric about who’s better than whom,” Manfred said. “They’re dictated by markets. That’s the system we negotiated.”
Boras has not commented publicly since then, though he has spoken out often against the current system, believing it discourages many teams from spending on veteran free agents.
In Hosmer’s case, though, Boras paired a relatively young player known for his athleticism and leadership with a team eager to shed its status as an also-ran.
The Padres have staggered through seven consecutive losing seasons and have not reached the playoffs since 2006. After flopping in 2015 despite several trades aimed at contending, they have built an encouraging farm system and have several young impact players on the roster.
Though they badly need starting pitching, the Padres have traded for the veteran infielders Chase Headley and Freddy Galvis this winter, indicating that they are ready for the next phase of their reconstruction under General Manager A.J. Preller. Hosmer’s deal, when finalized, will be the richest in the 50 seasons of the franchise.