MLB Owners Pushing The Union Towards A Strike
Back in 1987, well after Spring Training had begun, a defeated and dejected Andre Dawson went to the Chicago Cubs and gave them a blank contract where they could fill-in his compensation. Dawson was forced to do that because no Major League team, not even the Montreal Expos where he had spent 11 years, had shown an interest in signing him.
At that time, Dawson was 31 years old, and he was coming off a season where he hit .284/.338/.478 with 32 doubles, 20 homers, and 78 RBI. In his then 11 year career, he already had won the Rookie of the Year, six Gold Gloves, and he was a three time All-Star. To think no one wanted his services is beyond ludicrous.
As we would later discover, this was the result of collusion among owners, which continued to sow the mistrust between owners the MLBPA.
Since that time, things have dramatically improved to the point where the last two Collective Bargaining Agreements were ratified without so much as a hint of a work stoppage. Owners, players, and even fans have been able to enjoy the financial success of the sport, and they have seen the sport grow.
However, now, there are the seeds of mistrust being sown again.
This is something which has been building for a while now. It seems each offseason there is increasingly less activity during the Winter Meetings. Seemingly, teams are all individually yet collectively trying to wait out the market. Teams will tell you they are smarter than they have been in the past, and maybe they are, but there is something suspicious about what is transpiring.
Pitchers and catchers have less than one week before they have to report to Spring Training. Typically, this is the time of year where teams are finding their last pieces of the puzzle. They are signing cheaper veterans, and they are looking to hand out minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training to help sure up their bench and depth.
That’s not the case this year. Rather, there are real difference makers still available in free agency in a way that we have never seen before in the history of free agency:
Craig Kimbrel is the active saves leader, and he is coming off his third consecutive All-Star season where he saved 42 games, which was the third most in the Majors last year.
Gio Gonzalez is one year removed from a top six Cy Young finish, and he was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts for the Brewers as they fought for the Central Division title down the stretch.
Additionally, Mike Moustakas has the third most homers among third basemen over the past two seasons, and Adam Jones is a five time All Starhe has been an above average league hitter in nine of the past 10 seasons including his being just one of 37 outfielders with a wRC+ over 100 over the past two seasons.
While you can make a case for or against each one of these players, the fact these players remain on the free agent market in addition to other valuable commodities is ponderous. There is also the issue with Curtis Granderson and Jerry Blevins needing to accept minor league deals despite having been valuable Major League players for the past few seasons.
As bad as these instances are, there is Jacob deGrom.
Just last summer, his agent said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
This was as soft a trade demand as you can get. Really, this was a demand for a contract extension. The hope was with a new General Manager in place with a new plan, the Mets could pursue that extension. The only problem is the Mets would hire deGrom’s agent as their new General Manager, and Brodie Van Wagenen has not seemed intent on giving his former client the contract extension he asserted deGrom deserved.
That’s the current state of affairs between the players and owners. The owners are keeping player salaries down, and they are hiring player agents and having those agents not making good on their own demands. Even if you think what the owners are doing is justifiable, it is clear the players are not getting the same deals they once were on the free agent market.
This is why you see players like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt looking for contract extensions with their current teams so as to not be in the same position as this year’s group of free agents. It is why you will eventually see the union striking before the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.