On a national level, Major League Baseball doesn’t get the same level of attention as the NFL or even the NBA at this point. That may be why the multi-year issue facing the MLB with regard to free agency and player salaries hasn’t gotten the widespread attention that it deserves.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of major free agents—the types of players who would usually bring on huge bidding wars—struggle to find multiple suitors and sign extremely late in the offseason. Ahead of the 2019 season, Bryce Harper didn’t wind up signing with the Philadelphia Phillies until February 28.
Dallas Keuchel, no longer a Cy Young candidate but still an effective starter who wound up with a rock-solid 3.75 ERA on the year, didn’t get signed until early June, months into the season.
Those on the players’ side of things would argue these are just two examples that baseball teams have colluded to keep player salaries down. Few will scoff at the 13-year, $330 million contract that Harper wound up getting, but a few years earlier, and he might’ve gotten an even more lucrative deal. Instead, he’s getting roughly the same annual money that Alex Rodriguez received from the Texas Rangers all the way back in 2000, without accounting for inflation.
We’re just a week removed from a controversy-plagued postseason for the MLB, and now Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopolous may have thrown the league another curveball to deal with. In a conference call, he reportedly told media members that while the Astros and Nationals played, he had the chance to touch base with the other 27 teams to get a feel for where things are heading in free agency.
Without context, it seems like an anodyne enough statement, but given what the last few offseasons have brought, it certainly isn’t what player proponents want to hear.
This evening, MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark put out a statement calling for an investigation:
Statement of MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark pic.twitter.com/Xk5gsJQuGM
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) November 6, 2019
The full text of Clark’s release:
Statement of MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark
NEW York, Nov. 6 – Braves general manager Alex Anthopolous made the following statement to media members in a conference call earlier this week:
“Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs — obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up — but we had a chance to get a sense of what other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.”
Executive Director Tony Clark today issued the following response:
“The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopolous call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system. The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”
Whispers of a potential MLB labor battle have heated up over the last year or two. This certainly makes the chances of an impending lockout seem higher.
Baseball’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends at the end of the 2021 season.