Major League Baseball is a business. That fact is never made more apparent than during each offseason when free agent players meet with teams to discuss money, contracts and benefits. Millions of dollars are thrown at the league's best athletes in an attempt to woo them to a new city -- or to convince them to stay where they are.
But when notable names like Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Jayson Werth remain unsigned into the end of March, it's cause for alarm.
Free agent signings over the 2017-2018 offseason were startlingly slow. Even J.D. Martinez, the cream of this winter's crop, didn't have a finalized contract with the Boston Red Sox until February 26 -- a full 12 days after pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training.
"It was the first time we've seen this and I think a lot of players started panicking," MLB Network analyst and 2004 World Series champion Kevin Millar told AOL.com on behalf of Budweiser. "It was very strange."
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After his three-year stint in Boston ended in 2005, Millar had his own experience with free agency. He was swiped up fairly quickly and signed with the Baltimore Orioles in January 2006.
The former first baseman believes the rising salaries of today's MLB players are part of what is causing this offseason to be so unconventional.
"I think what goes up must come down," he said. "The salaries were starting to go so high, the game is in such a great spot. At some point, how much per year can a player keep going?"
See the players that have switched teams this offseason:
The contract Martinez agreed to with the Red Sox, worth $23,750,000 for each of its first three years, more than tripled his annual salary from 2017. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies on March 11, will be making double what the Chicago Cubs were paying him last season.
However, Millar noted the depth of the upcoming offseason's free agent class, and mused that some owners may be saving their cash for the superstars available in 2019 -- including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel.
"It will all, I think, even out," Millar said. "But it was definitely a strain this year if you were a free agent."
Related: Take a look back at Kevin Millar's career: