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With spring training approaching, MLBPA working to create destination for free agents

Spring training begins next week, with or without some key players still on the market. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
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Pitchers and catchers report to spring training next week, but many pitchers and catchers — and infielders and outfielders — don’t have teams to which to report. Several high-profile free agents remain unsigned in what has been a dead winter for player movement.

While former all-stars such as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Jonathan Lucroy, J.D. Martinez and Mike Moustakas wait for teams to offer what they consider equitable salaries, they might at least have a place to train even if they don’t have a contract.

The Major League Baseball Players Association is trying to arrange a 31st spring training outpost in either Florida or Arizona for the approximately 100 free agents, according to Yahoo. Details of the plan have not yet been made public.

MLB’s dead winter has union and teams at each other’s throats as free agents sit unsigned

A similar arrangement took place in 1995, following the strike-shortened 1994 season. When the strike finally ended in April, many free agents didn’t have homes, so they worked out in Homestead, Fla., hoping to draw interest from scouts.

Plenty of proven veterans found new teams that spring but took massive pay cuts to do so. Pitcher Tim Belcher signed with the Seattle Mariners for $580,000 after earning $3.4 million the previous season. Andy Van Slyke, a three-time all-star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, latched on with the Baltimore Orioles for $600,000. Benito Santiago, a four-time all-star to that point, had his salary slashed from $3.8 million to $650,000.

In the current market, there’s fear in the industry that teams are unwilling to spend on veteran players who might have their best baseball behind them. On its face, that strategy seems prudent, but it doesn’t jibe with the recent history of the league, when accomplished players have been lavished with big-money deals that often look regrettable in the final couple years, if not sooner.

MLB’s free agent snoozefest: Don’t call it collusion; call it smart business

This week, MLBPA chief Tony Clark criticized teams for a strategy of tanking rather than spending money to earnestly compete for a title this year.

“Spring training has always been associated with hope for a new season,” Clark said in a statement released Tuesday. “This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of the game.”

Last week, player agent Brodie Van Wagenen hinted at a spring training boycott, but the union has backed down from that.

Read more MLB coverage: 

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