Svrluga: If MLB wants to avoid labor unrest in 2021, there’s no time like the present

Baseball’s longest winter ended, finally, with Jake Arrieta in Philadelphia and Mike Moustakas back in Kansas City and Carlos Gonzalez returning to Colorado, all for millions of dollars less than we figured four months ago. We’re one Alex Cobb signing away from having all of the significant pegs being placed in the appropriate holes. For those of you who prefer baseball to the business of such, opening dfy is two weeks from Thursday. Play ball, finally. Enjoy.

But even as we begin to focus on what will be the themes of the season — on Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting back-to-back in the Bronx, on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado trying to produce one more time for the teams that drafted them — there’s no way to deny that what happened this winter (or, rather, what didn’t happen) is more important to the sport going forward.

People inside baseball, including those who work for clubs and some who represent players, believe the next three or four years are a monumental time for the sport, perhaps more important than when it took steps to reduce the impact of performance-enhancing drugs a dozen years ago. A significant number believe the chances of a strike at the conclusion of this collective bargaining agreement, which runs through the 2021 season, are very good. Some think it’s inevitable.

That might seem a long way off. But watch the calendar fly.

When the current deal was struck in December 2016, the players were not inclined to refuse to go to work. Now, they have lived through this winter, and now they have a different perspective.

Review some of what happened. It’s all within the framework of the current CBA, but the players are, in some cases, stunned by how the machinations of the agreement worked in practice, at least for one winter.

Arrieta, a Cy Young-winning pitcher whose ERA over the previous three seasons ranked behind only Clayton Kershaw’s, wasn’t able to secure a deal that was even half of what Max Scherzer landed three offseasons earlier. Arrieta’s guarantee from the Phillies: three years and $75 million — four years and $135 million short of Scherzer (though Arrieta has an opt-out and a club option, either of which could be used to earn him a bit more).

The more striking have-nots might be Moustakas and Gonzalez. Each has something about which he can be happy: He’s returning to the only team he has ever known. Each has something about which he could be bitter: He turned down the one-year qualifying offer a team can extend to its outgoing free agents, which this year was worth $17.4 million. Moustakas, coming off a season in which he hit a Kansas City-record 38 homers, re-signed with the Royals for one year and $6.5 million. Gonzalez, a three-time all-star, re-signed with Colorado for one year and $8 million.

Some agents and players believe this offseason was just the start of behavior modification by ownership, that the way free agents were approached this winter changed drastically — …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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