Known for spending with reckless abandon to lure the game's best stars to the Big Apple, the New York Yankees have been quiet on the free agent front in the past few years -- at least when it comes to offering megadeals.
The same goes for the Boston Red Sox, which got burned after some of their major signings only led them to the basement of the American League East division.
Last season, the Yankees let Robinson Cano leave town to sign a lucrative deal with the Seattle Mariners. The notoriously stingy Miami Marlins, meanwhile, gave Giancarlo Stanton a record 13-year, $325 million deal.
So what gives?
According to a new article in The Wall Street Journal it's all a matter of economics -- and, more importantly, improved TV revenue-sharing. A system that was devised to improve parity throughout the league is giving mid-market clubs more options when it comes to throwing cash at its stars.
"It's a different system that we're operating in, there's no doubt about it," Yankee GM Brian Cashman told the WSJ. "Obviously, I think the game has evolved to a level where all teams are in play, whether you're looking down in Miami and seeing the extension they gave to their homegrown talent, which probably 10 years ago wasn't feasible."
Back in 2000, league revenues were around $3 billion. Now, that figure has topped $9 billion.
And it's not just that the Yankees are getting outbid, as was the case with Cano last year. In some cases, teams are eager to lock up their budding stars with long-term contracts before they hit the free-agent market.
That means major-market teams with seemingly endless revenues have to be more selective. If they try to win every free agent they target, they'll back themselves into a corner financially.
The Yankees and other teams recognize that while big contracts like Stanton's will happen, they also reduce competition for future free agents -- teams like the Marlins can't necessarily keep spending at that rate for a full roster.
The Yankees have to pick their moments. But when they do lock in on a coveted free agent -- and starting pitching is expected to be their focus this offseason -- they'll still be willing to open their wallet.
Just don't expect it to happen very often.