Justin Verlander baffled that rebuilding teams won't sign Machado, Harper

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Passan: Harper, Machado remaining free agents 'the new normal' (1:08)

Jeff Passan says Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remaining free agents into spring training is normal in today's league. (1:08)

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander isn't buying the theory that the market for big free agents is limited by rebuilding teams not being in position to sign stars.

Like last year, the marquee free agents this offseason -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- remain unsigned as spring training approaches. The best hitter of last year's class, J.D. Martinez, didn't sign until Feb. 20, and the top pitcher, Jake Arrieta, didn't come to terms until the middle of March. Players and agents are talking about collusion among ownership, while teams are touting fiscal responsibility. Whatever the reason, free agency has changed, and Verlander isn't the only former MVP saying that the new reality isn't good for the game.

Buster Posey's Giants met with Harper recently, but it's not clear if they are able or willing to offer something in the range of the 10-year, $300 million deal that Harper reportedly turned down from the Nationals. Harper and Machado have met with a number of teams, but the sense of urgency that accompanied the courtships of Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols has been notably absent.

Teams have instead targeted secondary free agents like A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, Michael Brantley, Yasmani Grandal and Jed Lowrie.

Reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich also weighed in on the Harper/Machado impasse, getting into a back-and-forth with David Samson, his former team president with the Marlins. Samson was fired by Derek Jeter's ownership group in 2017 -- before Yelich was traded to the Brewers -- but he did have a history of shipping out stars for prospects. His exchange with Yelich shows the extent to which the debate over free agency has deteriorated.

Martinez was coming off a huge year split between the Tigers and Diamondbacks in 2017, hitting .303 with 45 homers and 104 RBIs. History suggested a long-term, massive contract for the then-29-year-old. The market remained surprisingly quiet, however, and he ended up taking a five-year, $110 million deal from the Red Sox.

Arrieta was two seasons removed from his dominant Cy Young campaign, but he was still seen as a top-of-the-rotation starter heading into free agency. The right-hander reportedly turned down a Cubs offer in the range of what they eventually gave Yu Darvish -- six years, $126 million. He settled for a three-year, $75 million contract from the Phillies.