NEW YORK — After finalizing a $10 million, two-year contract with the New York Mets, reliever Justin Wilson concluded that the number of teams not pursuing free agents has damaged the market.
“I think for the role that I pitch in, late in the game and high-leverage situations, there are only certain teams that are willing to spend money to compete,” Wilson said Monday during a conference call. “There is a lot of the league that rather make money than win, which if you’re a player isn’t very fun because we play this game to win. I don’t go into (the) season with any other goal than a World Series. So having two-thirds of the league not really involved in that, not trying to win a championship, does hurt free agency.”
Astros ace Justin Verlander was quoted last weekend by the Houston Chronicle expressing similar sentiments.
“The biggest detriment to our game right now is the non-competitiveness of two-thirds of the league,” Verlander was quoted as saying. “I think that’s why you’re seeing free agents not get signed.”
With spring training camps starting to open in two weeks, only 62 of the 164 players who exercised free-agent rights after the World Series have announced agreements.
“At the end of day you want every team to want to win the World Series,” Wilson said. “I’m not saying they don’t. But clearly there is some disconnect between teams wanting to make their top dollar and spend money to win.”
This year’s pace of announced agreements is up from 47 at a similar date last offseason. But it is down from the historical trend, such as 82 at the same time two years ago. There were 77 agreements announced from Feb. 6-24 last winter.
“There is no rush for ownership or teams,” Wilson said. “But at the end of the day I think that a lot of these players out there will get deals done. Teams are just probably being more patient trying to find the right fit in some instances or wait players out.
Wilson, a 31-year-old left-hander, will get $5 million annually and also can earn performance bonuses. He was 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA last season for the Chicago Cubs, striking out 69 and walking 33 in 54 2/3 innings.
“I had other offers on the table, but I really wanted to play for a contender,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t worried. It was a slow offseason, but I believe in myself and believe what I’ve done in the past, so I figured at the end of the day a contender would want me for a multiyear.”
Wilson gets $5 million annually as part of the deal negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson and can earn $500,000 each year in performance bonuses: $250,000 each for 60 and 65 games.
To open a roster spot, the Mets designated infielder Gavin Cecchini for assignment.