If you’re like me – and I presume most fans at this point – your fundamental rooting interest in the pervasive cold stove standoff is for teams and players to magically come together on agreeable contracts in the VERY near future so that there is minimal disruption of Spring Training and, in turn, the season. And that’s to say nothing of the underlying tensions – maybe some quick, healthy signings will buy some goodwill.
So, then, if you’re like me, you see this report as a very bad sign:
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) February 8, 2018
What was once a silly idea, and then a you-know-actually-maybe idea, is now something be actually prepared. The union, according to the report, is scouting sites in Arizona and Florida, and talking to possible coaches and staff for something akin to a 31st/32nd organization’s Spring Training for interested free agents.
To be sure, *if the freeze out is going to last much longer*, then I’m totally on board with this kind of approach. It gets the players at least some semblance of an organized ramp up to competitive activities, and could help in preventing early-season struggles and/or early-season injuries. This is a good idea.
The part of me that’s all FFFFFFffffffffudge about it is that I wish it wasn’t necessary at all. And the fact that it is seriously being pursued means there is a confirmed expectation by the union that the bulk of free agents will not sign before camps get going next week and the weeks that follow. There are upwards of 100 free agents (maybe 50 or so that are real big leaguers, and another 50 that are real minor league depth/roll-the-dice types), so we probably long got past the point where a sizable portion was, logistically, going to be able to sign in such a short window. But dang, man. I was still hopeful.
I guess even now, I’m gonna stay a little bit hopeful. The report indicates that things are still preliminary, and it doesn’t look to me like anything is yet set in stone.
The reality is that teams and players should still feel a very strong incentive to marry up sooner rather than later, regardless of the existence of a free agent Spring Training. Getting in the door at the start of Spring Training with your new teammates and new coaches is not a zero-value thing. That comfort that develops matters. The work you can put in with the coaches matters. The team-specified and coordinated ramping up process matters. The mechanical tweaks matter. Missing that time hurts the players and the teams.
UPDATE: I am less hopeful now:
Source confirms: A separate training camp for unsigned free agents “will happen.” Union not sure how many players will attend, but plan to make a facility available in Florida or Arizona. First reported: @TBrownYahoo.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 8, 2018