MLB Union Leader Tony Clark Comments on Amount of Unsigned Players

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MLB Union Leader Tony Clark Comments on Amount of Unsigned Players
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Head of the Major League Baseball Players Association Tony Clark isn't pleased that there are a number of free agents still on the market with spring training just around the corner. 

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training as early as Feb. 17, and some big names like outfielder Dexter Fowler, shortstop Ian Desmond and first baseman Pedro Alvarez are still looking for new deals. 

Clark spoke with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com

I think it's disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don't think it's in anyone's best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.

Per the AP, Fowler, Desmond and pitcher Yovani Gallardo all turned down one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offers from their respective teams in November, and they are still without a team.

Here are the list of players that received qualifying offers this offseason, per MLB.com's Doug Miller:

2015 MLB Qualifying Offers
Player Qualifying Offer From Team Signed With
Zack Greinke Los Angeles Dodgers Arizona Diamondbacks
Jordan Zimmerman Washington Nationals Detroit Tigers
Hisashi Iwakuma Seattle Mariners Seattle Mariners
Yovani Gallardo Texas Rangers Unsigned
Brett Anderson Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
Wei-Yin Chen Baltimore Orioles Miami Marlins
John Lackey St. Louis Cardinals Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija Chicago White Sox San Francisco Giants
Ian Kennedy Pittsburgh Pirates Kansas City Royals
Marco Estrada Toronto Blue Jays Toronto Blue Jays
Jason Heyward St. Louis Cardinals Chicago Cubs
Alex Gordon Kansas City Royals Kansas City Royals
Dexter Fowler Chicago Cubs Unsigned
Colby Rasmus Houston Astros Houston Astros
Justin Upton San Diego Padres Detroit Tigers
Chris Davis Baltimore Orioles Baltimore Orioles
Matt Wieters Baltimore Orioles Baltimore Orioles
Howie Kendrick Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
Ian Desmond Washington Nationals Unsigned
Daniel Murphy New York Mets Washington Nationals

The 43-year-old Clark is the first player to ever lead the union and has a big task facing him. Clark will begin to negotiate for a new labor contract on Dec. 1 when the old deal expires.

The last deal was signed in November 2011 when some big changes were made. The new playoff format that had the Wild Card Game was included along with the declaration that the Houston Astros would move to the American League in 2013. 

What concerns Clark is what commissioner Rob Manfred, who at the time was head labor negotiator, per the AP, wrote regarding qualifying offers extended toward free agents. 

The AP described what he wrote.

[Manfred] estimated eight to 10 free agents annually would receive qualifying offers -- the average of the 125 highest-paying contracts -- which attaches the loss of a top amateur draft pick for a team that signs a new player. There were nine offers in 2012 and the number climbed to 13 the following year, 12 in 2014 and 20 this offseason, when there was a deep free-agent class.

Clark believes that this notion is "damaging the concept of competitive balance." 

With the rules in place, it takes a lot for another team to sign a free agent. Not only does it carry the possibility of overpaying for a free agent, but the loss of a high draft pick is a price too steep for many teams. 

Because of those rules, players stay on the market longer and have less time to assimilate to the new team that they sign with. It could have a big effect on their numbers and damage their chances to succeed in their new setting.

Clark has plenty of time to prepare, though, as negotiations don't start for more than eight months. Even so, one can expect that this issue will be at the top of his list of points to discuss. 

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