This offseason has been one of the weirdest and quietest in baseball since the start of free agency decades ago. Teams have gone out of their way to avoid signing the big time contracts that usually highlight the winter "hot stove" season. The race to the bottom has frustrated players and their agents and may point to a disturbing new trend in the league.

Tony Clark, head of the player's union, has stopped just short of outright accusing the owners of collusion. Whether or not the owners are actively trying to drive down player values, it is hard to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why so many big time players in their prime remain unsigned.

These guys are in their prime

Starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta usually would be mentioned together as CY Young award candidates. This year, they are unsigned pitchers in their prime with not immediate suitors in play. Why any team would not want these aces is astounding.

When it comes to the hitters, the picture is even bleaker. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and JD Martinez all would normally command close to $30 million a year on a multi-year deal. No such deals have been signed and the offers that have been made were far below that value.

The Boston Red Sox offered Martinez a five year, $100 million contract, which was about $50 million less than what Martinez was being valued at.

The team quickly upped the offer to $125 million, which is more or less a tacit admission that their first offer was an insulting low blow.

The league reaps record profits from their new TV deals and the upcoming $50 million payment for each team as part of the MLB selling off a side business to Disney. The owners' reluctance to use that incoming cash influx to improve their teams is hurting the integrity of the league.

Derek Jeter deserves some blame

The newest owner in the league, Derek Jeter in Miami, has become the face of this cost cutting crisis. Since taking over control of the team just a few months ago, Jeter has cleaned house. The current opening day roster projection looks more like a mediocre minor league team.

Trading Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna and Christian Yelich all but assured that the team will be among the worst in the league next year.

Jeter argued that this was necessary to get bad money off of the team's books and return to profitability. Stanton was on a massive contract, but Ozuna and Yelich had team-friendly deals.

It is also worth noting that Jeter stands to make significant bonuses over the next several years if he keeps payroll under a certain level. The optics look awful to fans as the plan to return to profitability involves an increase in ticket sales. How that will happen only Jeter knows.

What is known is that as the season progresses and these players remain unsigned, teams will feel increasing pressure to improve their team. Not improving their team would be inexcusable and might actually give the collusion rumors merit.