There was a signing today, so, hey, it can’t be all that slow AMIRITE?
In all seriousness, the baseball world remains mired in its second consecutive abnormally slow, abnormally short-contract-y free agent winter. Last year, around this time, we really started to see an angry uptick from players and agents alike, all expressing frustration at what they perceived to be an artificially deflated market. Although the league and owners deflected by pointing to a myriad of one-off explanations (of debatable merit), player salaries in the aggregate did wind up declining last year for the first time in nearly 15 years.
I expect we’ll start hearing the same angry chatter again soon, and especially in the run-up to the expiration of the current CBA (2021).
In the meantime, and on this topic, I found this piece from Buster Olney very interesting, wherein a leaked agent memo outlines possible steps the players could take to push back against ownership in these chilly times:
Column: A leaked agent's memo outlines possible ways the union can begin to drive market changes increasingly needed by the players. https://t.co/1QEw7v7zWR
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 31, 2018
The memo, which originated in August, comes from agent Jeff Berry, and throws out possible collective actions the players could take to improve their treatment by teams.
Some of the proposed action is directly tied to player issues. For example, in response to service time manipulation of younger players, the MLBPA could endeavor to help players set up guidelines for their usage – as supported by data science – to best preserve their health and productivity throughout their careers. Or to respond to league-wide arbitration practices, the MLBPA could create its own set of values for each player in arbitration, and if that value isn’t met in negotiations, the player proceeds to arbitration (that way, the MLBPA could try to collectively push up arbitration rates).
Some of the proposed action, by contrast, is more general: boycotting MLB Network or other league-owned media, declining to arrive for Spring Training until the last required day, boycotting fan fests, etc.
We’ll see if any of these ideas garner wide adoption and are actually implemented, but the fact that they are circulating at all is a reinforcement of the idea that it is not a friendly time in the baseball labor space, and it’s not just about free agent contracts.