MLB money rushes to free agents as lockout looms

Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the fridge and Max Scherzer is already on his way to the Mets. That alone proves that baseball’s of...


Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the fridge and Max Scherzer is already on his way to the Mets. That alone proves that baseball’s offseason, which tends to go on at a brisk pace, has come to life.

But is it a spending blizzard, or just a flurry? Is free agency now a winter wonderland for gamers, or is it barely snowing? Either way, forecasts call for a lockout when the collective agreement expires at midnight EST on Wednesday.

It would be the first work stoppage since August 1994, when the owners dragged the players into a strike that called off the World Series. At least that timing is better, with spring training over two months away. But failing to come up with a new CBA would trigger a trading freeze, which explains all the recent activity. Free agents want to find a home before settling in for the long, cold and lonely winter.

It shouldn’t be that way. Maybe the owners and players will resolve all their differences quickly, but no one expects it. The game economy deserves careful and thoughtful recalibration. But it’s hard to believe the system is flawed enough to shut down the industry.

Since the last negotiation, after the 2016 season, the owners have pulled off a nice trick by lowering the salaries of the players as a whole. The average salary fell more than 6%, to $ 4.17 million, between opening day in 2017 and opening day in 2021. The value of franchises continues to rise, of course, because so many billionaires want to get in.

No one – players or owners – cries poor. Players have said for years that the employment contract discourages teams from spending by offering incentives to lose, which hurts their competitive instincts. They also point out that if teams spend less on veterans, younger players should be paid more.

Both are sensitive points. Still, several losing teams have turned to free agency this month to return to competition. And the Tampa Bay Rays just gave a $ 182 million contract to Wander Franco, who has played 70 games in the majors.

“The Rays have given me the support I need, the development, the people they have here,” Franco said through an interpreter at a press conference at Tropicana Field on Monday. “I want to stay here my whole career.

It doesn’t always work that way. The players who signed baseball’s first $ 100 million, $ 200 million and $ 300 million contracts – Kevin Brown, Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton – have all been traded to the Yankees with several years remaining on their deals. But Franco set another new standard: more money guaranteed to a player with less than a year of major league service.

The compromise is that Franco gave up several years of free will, when the free market could have determined its value. But when a 20-year-old is set to make $ 223 million before his 33rd birthday (the deal includes a $ 41 million option for a 12th grade), it seems like a good move.

Here are a few other newsworthy and widely reported November contract deals (some won’t be official until the parties agree on contract language and medical details):

Maybe the timing of all these moves is no coincidence. A flood of early chords might make it seem like all is well. A lockout would then shut off the money tap, leaving unsigned players to demand a labor deal.

The owners have proposed a minimum payroll for all teams – accompanied, of course, by lowering the luxury tax threshold at the top of the scale. But the sport actually has a more competitive balance than budget hawks want to admit: 15 different franchises have won the World Series since 2001, and that doesn’t include the perennial and well-run contenders of Tampa Bay and Milwaukee. The NFL, NBA, and NHL had fewer different champions at the same time.

Gamers are also exaggerating some of their issues. Yes, young stars are underpaid for the value they offer. But low payroll teams need them to stand a chance of winning, and higher payroll teams need them to more easily afford expensive players. And some teams take advantage of this to show restraint in the free market; not all free agent contracts work.

The biggest obstacle to the future of the game is not the salary structure, anyway, but the game on the pitch. Players and owners alike need to find a way to make the product as entertaining as possible. As hard pitchers and high hitting hitters continue to get big deals, this can be everyone’s biggest challenge.

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Newsrust - US Top News: MLB money rushes to free agents as lockout looms
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