Cold Stove and Winter of Discontent

The lack of activity regarding some of the top free agents available this offseason (Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, et al.) has resulted in some noise being made by players and their agents about possible boycotts of Spring Training, collusion by owners to make lowball offers, etc. and even the dreaded s-word. Say it aint so, Kenley! I just started this blog and don’t want to be stuck with no baseball to talk about! I’ll be reduced to having to follow the Raptors in order to have material for posts, and I haven’t really followed the NBA since Jordan retired…

While I definitely believe there is probably some degree of collusion happening. As described in this article on SB Nation, hallmarks of collusion include “little interest in player movement and paying players who have reached free agency”the current economic trends of baseball have led to this point. I remember recently reading an article (unfortunately, I have not been able to relocate it for crediting and linking purposes) discussing how it has become much more lucrative for owners to find the next big star through the draft or international scouting and signing prospects on the cheap for long-term contracts when they’re young rather than paying established free agent stars. The successful championship-winning teams are doing this through tanking and rebuilding (Cubs, Astros), leaving the teams in the middle with the “win now” approach by spending on free agents (Cardinals, Brewers in NL Central). Spending big bucks on a long-term contract for a free agent whose performance may decline is a financial risk that owners are understandably trying to avoid. Getting away from overpaying players for past performance is good for the owners’ bottom line, but tanking and disinterest in signing free agents is not good for overall competitiveness and the strength of the game. Fans want to see a competitive team on the field.

I think the talk of a strike at this point is overblown, since it wouldn’t be good optics for the players at this point due to the CBA being fairly new and public perception of athletes as privileged millionaires who should be thankful to their betters, the club owners, for the opportunity to play. The current talk by the agents and players is basically serving as warning shots and as a tactic to gain leverage. I see it as more likely there will be a boycott of Spring Training or grievances filed against owners due to the lack of signing activity. However, a strike could be possible a year or down down the road if the current trends continue. I, like you, don’t want to see this – I want to see baseball! Spring Training and single-game ticket sales are coming soon, and I’m looking forward to deciding which Opening Week game I plan to attend this year. Don’t fuck this up for me, guys!