In my opinion there isn't a single reason for the slow FA market this year, I believe there are multiple reasons that make sense in my head at least.
Ted had an excellent article attempting to tackle the issue but I started thinking about a quote that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto recently made.
"You could argue you’re going to compete with more clubs to get the first pick in the draft than you would to win the World Series."
So I tried to place all 30 teams into 5 badly named buckets based upon their probability of pursuing the top end of the market.
Bucket 4 would be the teams that will set the market... and those teams are typically not market setters and that has to slow things down in theory.
Bucket 1 (Out)
Orioles - Will be gutted by Free Agency next year.
Rays - They are always out at the top end. Will only look for bargains.
A’s - They are always out. Will only look for bargains.
Braves - They could jump in but I think taking the Dodgers money this year suggests that they are getting ready for next year.
Marlins - Fire Sale in Progress
Reds - Still in the beginning of their rebuild.
Pirates - Cole and McCutchen Trade signifies intention.
Bucket 2 (Teams that have been IN before but OUT this year)
Blue Jays - No indication that they will spend this year. JD would be a nice addition to this team but I assume they are going to save some money for next year's free agent class.
Tigers - Starting a rebuild - They will trade V-Mart, Miggy, Anyone... if they can find a taker.
White Sox - Still in rebuild mode.
Bucket 3 (Teams that have been IN before and considered in contention but hamstrung this year or done)
Yankees - Competitive Balance Tax Complications - They have stated they want to stay under. Have to move money to participate.
Red Sox - Already over the Tax threshold with the highest payroll in Baseball currently. They could spend more but they probably have a limit.
Indians - There is a limit to how much Cleveland can spend. They've already let 3 bullpen arms walk along with Santana in favor of the cheaper Yonder Alonso Option.
Angels - Up tight against the Tax threshold - They could spend some more but the top end is probably out of reach unless they move some money.
Astros - I think they are done with the big deals... Team looks set... maybe just some clean up to do. No reason to spend bigger.
Mariners - Payroll is currently higher than the Yankees. Top of the Market will push them over the Tax Threshold.
Rangers - I'm not sure what is going on here. They have flat out stated that they are out. I'm not sure why. They can afford Darvish, Arrieta, JD or Hosmer.But they say they are out... so I'll put them in this bucket.
Nationals - Up against the Tax Threshold... Trying to figure out how to keep Harper next year.
Mets - Budget Minded... they have always been budget minded. They got a lot of holes... they will probably hang around the next level Free Agent if they do anything.
Cubs - My opinion... But I believe they are trying to control their budget this year based on everything they have done so far.
Dodgers - Up against the Tax threshold with very little wiggle room. They would have to move a lot of money to participate at the top end. They are clearly trying to reset the escalating penalty or the Kemp Trade makes no sense.
Giants - They are right near the Tax Threshold of 197 Million. Clearly trying to build something with Longoria and McCutchen but clearly trying to stay under or else they would have went and got Cain.
Rockies - Not historical big spenders but in contention so I put them in this bucket. They have already spent 100 million plus on their bullpen so I'm not sure they have the budget to go big. Probably looking at mid level 1st Base guys.
Bucket 4 (Teams that could be in this year)
Twins - Not historically a spender but they got room in the budget and a young team that is in contention.
Phillies - I'm putting them in this bucket because they went out and got Santana... They have a tiny payroll currently and they are in a market that allows them to play with the big boys.
Cards - I'm putting them in this bucket because they got some room in the budget within reason and the roster doesn't seem complete.
Brewers - Young team in contention... Room in the Budget and the trading for Yelich and signing of Cain announced intention.
D-Backs - They are in contention... They got budget space... I refuse to believe that they can't play at the top of the market. JD was amazing for them... no way they don't want that back.
Padres - Only in this bucket because of rumors of Hosmer pursuit. However... if they are pursuing Hosmer... they could shift to someone else.
Royals - Only in this bucket because of rumors of Hosmer pursuit. If it wasn't for that... they are easily in bucket 1.