This is an excerpt from the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for more than 20 years.
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"Look, the biggest reason why these two players have found surprisingly limited demand is the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The penalties for exceeding the luxury-tax threshold have been ratcheted up to the point of being a severe deterrent, especially for teams already projected over 90 wins, especially for teams who are already net losers in the revenue-sharing process. The last CBA was designed to keep the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Cubs from taking their baseball revenues and using them on baseball players. It’s working. Under a different rule set, we would not be having these conversations.
"However, there do seem to be baseball reasons as well. Harper and Machado, whatever their skills, are not Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. They don’t have the track records of sustained MVP-level performance. They didn’t have walk years that create great demand. They each come with questions about their defensive performance. Both play in an era where we don’t necessarily expect their next few seasons to be their peaks, followed by a slow decline."