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Olney: Players might need drastic steps to stir stagnant market

Under the terms of his new contract, Nelson Cruz probably will take a pay cut in 2020 if he has a productive 2019 season with the Twins. AP

This winter's free-agent market is moving into its annual holiday freeze, slowing already brutal conditions for a players' union still festering over the struggles for free agents last winter.

Consider what we've seen so far this offseason:

• The other day, Nelson Cruz -- who has at least 37 homers in each of the past five seasons -- signed a one-year deal with a club option with the Minnesota Twins, for $14.3 million. If the Twins exercise the option, which they would do only if Cruz has a productive 2019, Cruz would take a pay cut to $12 million.

• Only six players have signed deals of more than two years fully guaranteed.

• No player older than 32 has signed a deal of more than two years fully guaranteed.

• There are about 200 unsigned free agents, and privately, player agents continue to forecast worsening conditions in the years ahead, because the vast majority of those in the open market will take one-year agreements to go back to work in spring training -- and then go back into free agency next winter and join the ever-growing number of players looking for work every offseason.

Amid heightened union concern about the developing financial conditions for the players, veteran agent Jeff Berry -- who represents Buster Posey, among many others -- wrote a memo this past summer filled with ideas for change. ESPN obtained a copy of the memo from a third party, and Berry confirmed its authenticity.