The Rundown: Trouble Brewing, Bryant and Harper Ring in New Year, Spring Training Closing In

One of the hottest topics in baseball during a super slow holiday week is the debate over setting a mandatory deadline for free agents to sign, an idea first proposed by Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski at the recent Winter Meetings. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not it’s a dumb idea (it is), but in the article referenced above I came across an interesting quote from Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer.

“[The way that front offices handle free agency] is frustrating because at the end of the day players — in my belief — the players and the owners have a 50-50 split over the dollars created in this game. As players, we would just like to make sure that relationship continues at a 50-50 rate.”

That quote may represent the stance of the MLBPA in regards to the next CBA negotiation. After all, Scherzer is a member of the union’s executive subcommittee, so his point should not be dismissed. He speaks on behalf of the entire union. And the last two winters have really set the stage for what could be the biggest fight between the owners and players since 1994. When the players walked out in August of that year it led to the cancellation of the remainder of the season, including the playoffs and World Series.

When Scherzer became a free agent after the 2014 season, he was surprised by how many teams didn’t want to provide a long-term deal to a Cy Young winner who had never been on the disabled list in his six-plus major-league seasons. This year, there appear to be two legitimate suitors for Manny Machado and three or four for Bryce Harper. Markets that small will work against the model of true free agency, which by definition should be an open auction of sorts, with players choosing to play for the highest bidder. Certainly, some players limit their suitors based on personal reasons, but more than ever a large number of teams simply choose not to participate.

Though owners can’t necessarily be accused of collusion, there is certainly a like-minded agenda among MLB’s thirty front offices. It will come to a head after the 2021 season as owners and front offices have no need to address player complaints if they are simply adhering to their obligations as stated in the current agreement. The owners can’t cry poor based on current and projected revenues, and they don’t. Baseball is a $10B+ revenue machine and franchises are worth $1.65B on average, as of the end of the 2017 season. But player contracts are shrinking in AAV and length of term over the past two winters. Something has to give.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Though I do not agree that the Cubs could possibly finish in third place this season or that there’s a “mess” that needs to be fixed, I agree that some of these 2019 Cubs resolutions are spot on.
  • Anthony Rizzo and his wife Emily had their recent wedding in Miami showcased in the online version of Brides Magazine.
  • CBS Sports has this prediction for the Cubs 2019 season: Chicago will win the second NL wildcard spot. They have the Cardinals winning the division and the Braves getting the first wildcard. I guess that means the Brewers are on the outside looking in.
  • If Harper and Nolan Arenado were both free agents this season, which would you rather have?
  • Are the Braves an option if the Cubs decide to trade Jason Heyward.
  • We all need to get past the fact that Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper hanging out together is not an indicator of an imminent contract agreement between the Cubs and the all-star right fielder. They’re best friends, and best friends hang out. Now if the Harpers and Epsteins were hanging out, that’s a completely different story.

Wednesday Stove

Jon Heyman reports that the Seattle Mariners have signed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. He had been posted by his NPB team, the Seibu Lions.

Dodgers fans have spoken and they want both Bryce Harper and Corey Kluber.

The Brewers and Padres remain the most interested in trading for Yankees SP Sonny Gray.

Countdown to Spring Training: 43 Days

Spring training is a wonderful annual tradition, especially if you live in a northern city and get to spend a month enjoying the warm weather in Florida or Arizona. If you get a chance, make a trip and catch a game, you won’t regret it.

Be sure to check out Cubs Insider’s Guide to Chicago Cubs Spring Training. There’s lot’s of tips and tricks we’ve put together to help make you trip to Arizona worry free.

Bob Uecker once said this: “The highlight of my career? In ’67 with St. Louis, I walked with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run in an intra-squad in spring training.”

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