With several prominent free agents still unsigned, the MLB player's union is becoming more and more concerned by club executives commenting on the free agent market publicly, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.
The qualifying offer has played a significant role in the relative stalemate in free agency this winter. The bidding for players like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Stephen Drew would typically be highly competitive, with lucrative, multiyear deals the likely result. However, the additional cost of forfeiting a draft pick to sign players that have turned down qualifying offers has devalued their markets considerably. The one-year, $14.1 million deal was designed to provide small-market teams a contingency as their best players approached the open market, but the desired effect hasn't exactly come to fruition.
The Major League Baseball Players Association has expressed concerns that comments made publicly by team executives could be adding to the devaluation of certain players.
"We have had conversations with the union about public comments concerning free agents. We have a mutual interest in assuring that there is no excessive commentary." - Rob Manfred, MLB Chief Operations Officer
The MLBPA would have a tough time proving that any collusion has taken place so far, and their efforts could be an attempt to put some kind of pressure on team management in an effort to accelerate the markets for remaining free agents.
Teams will begin reporting for spring training in less than two weeks, and if the market's remaining high-profile stragglers are still unemployed as the season nears, the MLBPA could amp up their efforts to influence team officials. The current collective-bargaining agreement runs through 2016, so labor peace is assured until then, but major changes could be on the way if a player like Kendrys Morales chooses to sit out the first third of the season in order to avoid the draft compensation he's is tethered to under the current system.
The player's union has filed grievances citing conspiracies to manipulate the market in the past. In the 1980s, teams paid the players $280 million, and in the early 2000s, the MLBPA won $12 million.