We are a little more than a week before spring training starts, and there are literally dozens of free agents still unsigned. The players, who have taken a beating in the last two collective bargaining agreements, are understandably upset that the usual offseason windfall hasn’t materialized.
This is just the second of five years in the current CBA, and the players have little leverage to change a system they agreed to just 14 months ago. One of the reported suggestions was long a staple of baseball labor discord — a walkout.
Sources: Players briefly discussed the possibility of boycotting the first days of spring training in a conference call last week, among many other ideas. But baseball industry sources indicate it is not currently an option under any serious consideration.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 4, 2018
However, the MLB players union on Sunday responded to those reports.
“Recent press reports have erroneously suggested that the Players Association has threatened a ‘boycott’ of spring training. Those reports are false,” the MLBPA statement read. “No such threat has been made, nor has the union recommended such a course of action.”
The unhappiness among players has started to seep out in the last week. Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen suggested, “Maybe we have to go on strike.”
Agent Brodie Van Wagenen tweeted about the players’ “outrage” on Friday.
A rising tide... @MLB_PLAYERS pic.twitter.com/jwkoiiI0yt— Brodie Van Wagenen (@bvanwagenen) February 2, 2018
To date this winter, only one free agent has signed a contract of longer than three years. That was outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who inked a five-year, $80 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Jan. 26.
“For decades free agency has been the cornerstone of baseball’s economic system and has benefited players and the game alike,” players union executive director Tony Clark said Friday. “Each time it has been attacked, players, their representatives and the association have united to defend it.”
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported on the growing rift between the players and owners on Sunday:
“The owners have to realize they’re about to jeopardize an unbelievably good thing,” said a source on the players’ side. “If they don’t recognize it, they don’t see where this is going. Everybody’s going to be in unison. And we’re all going to walk right off the cliff together.”
“Just because we have enjoyed an unprecedented stretch of labor peace that has benefited both sides does not mean the players are oblivious to the realities that this market has presented,” agent Joshua Kusnick tweeted on Friday. “The MLBPA and players have been tested before but have never been broken. Not ever. It will not happen this time, either.”