Nov 15, 2019 - Sports

Labor unrest lurks as free agency begins in the MLB

Data: FanGraphs; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: FanGraphs; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

"The holiday shopping season is upon us, and what better way to bring cheer than by signing a free agent." MLB teams will be looking to do just that in the coming weeks.

Yes, but: We could be in for another long, cold winter, as many of the same forces that made last year's free agency so frustratingly slow are still at play.

  • Last week, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made some questionable comments on a conference call, saying that Atlanta "had time to connect with 27 of the clubs … to get a sense of what [they] are going to look to do in free agency." (He later said he misspoke.)
  • MLBPA boss Tony Clark fired back, saying that Anthopoulos' comments "call[ed] into question the integrity of the entire free-agency system. The clear description of club coordination is egregious."
  • Meanwhile, baseball's current labor agreement is set to expire after the 2021 season and a work stoppage feels imminent given the relations between the union and management.

The bottom line: "It is within this strained atmosphere that baseball's offseason talent marketplace will play out," writes WashPost's Dave Sheinen.

  • "Business will go on, with 30 teams still hoping to address various needs and dozens of players still in need of new homes by Opening Day. But the labor unrest will never be far from the surface."

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