And Here We Go: Now Scott Boras is Suggesting Collusion, Too, and MLB Fires Right Back

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And Here We Go: Now Scott Boras is Suggesting Collusion, Too, and MLB Fires Right Back

Chicago Cubs

Your super brief recap: free agency has been slow all offseason, and a huge volume of quality free agents remain unsigned, even though Spring Training nominally begins in a week. It’s legitimately historically unusual. A trio of agents fired off late last week, and the MLB and the MLB Players union volleyed various shots over the course of the weekend and yesterday.

Then today, MLB issued a statement, purporting to respond to union comments about the free agent freeze and tanking in the league, that really caught peoples’ attention:

There are totally innocuous ways to read that, and reasonable explanations for the way MLB presented the whole “some free agents have offers in the nine-figures” thing and the whole “agents failed to accurately assess the market” thing. Outsiders have been making those points – rightly or wrongly – for months.

But the thing is, sending out this message right now (especially just a day after Todd Frazier seemed to take a peanuts deal) seems unnecessarily aggressive, and, as summed up by one prominent agent today, unnecessarily brazen.

Here’s how super agent Scott Boras reacted to the MLB statement, offering the thoughts that many others had when reading it:

Again, MLB could explain these things away by pointing to public reports and the very general nature of the information (come on now – we all know that at least SOME players have nine-figure offers), but why in the world would you put yourselves in that position willingly? When everyone was already getting kinda antsy about the collusion allegations? By their statement, it feels like MLB guaranteed a collusion fight once the offseason is over and the players all compare notes about how things went down.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Naturally, that wasn’t the end of things this evening. A representative for MLB actually immediately responded to Boras’s comments, which should tell you just how heated things are getting:

The relationship between MLB (the owners) and Boras (the top player agent) is necessarily adversarial, so the fightin’ words don’t necessarily mean anything big or dramatic has to now happen. But the reality is, you don’t see this kind of sparring out in the public. It underscores how freakin’ weird and troubling the labor situation is in baseball right now.

In case you’re wondering, and for what very little it’s worth: I asked around in other collective bargaining quarters about how unusual it would be for a bargaining unit (i.e., the Players Association in this case) to actually go on strike or get locked out with four years to go on the Collective Bargaining Agreement and I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be extremely extreme, and seemingly highly unlikely. There’s always the possibility the players could disband the union and proceed from there, but that also seems unlikely right now. (If you want more on the complex legal issues at play here, there’s a fantastic, recent deep dive at FanGraphs.)

Instead, I’d think if we were going to get a fight coming out of this situation, it wouldn’t involve a stoppage of play, it would involve the sides taking each other to arbitration/a court over alleged violations of the CBA, alleged violations of applicable antitrust law, and/or alleged violations of any number of other legal theories they could throw at each other.

I can really only speak generally like this, because, as I’ve said incessantly for the past couple months, this is all just so weird and unprecedented. We are all swimming in new waters (which also probably helps explain how clumsily all sides have handled things).

I still tend to think the most likely outcome is that a lot of the free agents sign over the next month, they get deals relatively in line with expectations, and then there’s a collusion investigation thereafter. The public sparring probably doesn’t stop any time soon, though it would no longer be a daily or weekly thing at that point.

Oh, by the way: the Commissioner’s semi-firm deadline for imposing those pace-of-play changes unilaterally is coming up very soon. Good luck getting everyone on board about that stuff right now in a peaceful way …

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.