Last year's free agent market was sluggish, albeit less so than this year. The problem this year is that a kind of "soft collusion" among front offices doesn't stand a chance against market forces that will produce the two biggest contracts in the history of major league baseball.
"The 90s were a crucible for pitchers. Newer ballparks were smaller and had stingier foul territories. The strike zone was the size of a license plate. Two rounds of expansion drafts diluted talent. More power hitting followed, as well as more 300 strikeout seasons by elite pitchers. The “Colorado Effect” made a superstar of Larry Walker but was harsh on pitchers who had to survive at high altitude. Baseballs were allegedly juiced. And so were the hitters—allegedly."
Long-term, a dearth of homegrown talent in the future puts more pressure on a good return from a Machado trade now. Hopefully the team has a greater capacity for spotting top line talent developed by other teams than developing its own.