The new union head is on the lookout for collusion, and other labor tidbits

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There’s obviously still baseball to be played, but it’s never too early to look to the offseason and beyond.  To that end, incoming MLBPA head Michael Weiner held court over the weekend and had some interesting comments on a number of subjects:

Collusion:  After an offseason in which many big names signed for short deals and low money, Weiner said that the union will closely monitor offseason transactions to see if there’s any collusion among teams.  I’m generally a union guy and I’d put nothing past certain oweners, but I’m dubious that there really was collusion last year or that there will be this year.  Ownership used to be really dumb and would break the law to keep salaries down. Now they’re much much more savvy and realize that the best way to keep salaries down is to, you know, not pay aging guys who aren’t likely to reproduce past, fluky results.  And they’re doing other interesting things too.  Put differently, why on Earth would an owner collude when smart guys like Mike Weiner are watching closely when there are so many other ways to keep salaries low?

Schedule:  Weiner says that the players would consider shortening the season — I’m assuming to 154 games or something — to make the schedule more workable for everyone.  The owners wouldn’t likely go for it, though, because eight games of revenue, both in gate and in broadcasting and all of that, means a lot to them. At the same time, they probably realize that they couldn’t get players to agree to an across-the-board pay cut of 5%, which is what eight games would basically represent. My view: even if the schedule is screwy, more baseball > less baseball every single time, so please don’t shorten the season.

Free Agent Compensation:  Your team gets draft picks if a free agent leaves after they’ve been offered arbitration. What level of pick they get is determined by the Elias ranking system, which totally sucks. Weiner says the players want to change it. The owners kind of like it, not necessarily because it makes sense (it doesn’t) but because anything the burdens the free market value of a player is a good thing in their eyes, and having to give up draft picks to sign a player burdens their value.  See what I was saying about legal means to lower salaries?

International Draft: The owners obviously want it and, as is the case with amateur players, the union’s professional membership may be willing to throw the international prospects into a draft, thinking that any money saved on their big bonuses will go back towards established players.  I think that’s wrong: any money teams save from international free agents will likely go to boat payments and expensive divorce attorneys, not American free agents.  What’s worse is that an international draft is bad for baseball, in that it will eliminate the incentive for teams to go out and work hard to develop amateurs in foreign countries like they do in the Dominican Republic now. To see that this is true, one need look no further than Puerto Rico. Before 1990, there was no draft there, and all kinds of Puerto Rican talent flowed into the Major Leagues. Since then: baseball has declined horribly in Puerto Rico. Coincidence? I think not. Keep the draft out of the Dominican Republic.

Revenue Sharing: Weiner says what most people suspect: the players and the owners of rich teams are on the same side when it comes to revenue sharing: they like it in theory, but hate that some small market teams just pocket the money instead of spending it on players to make the team better.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the Yankees of the world and the players gang up against the small market owners during the next round of labor negotiations in order to force some sort of system by which revenue sharing recipients are forced to either (a) spend revenue sharing money on players; or (b) if the team is really in tear-down, rebuild mode, something that forces them to put revenue sharing money into an account that must be used to pay salaries later, when the team is better situated to compete.

The two biggest things to take away from this article: (1) Weiner is a really smart guy who seems to think hard about these issues (no surprise); and (2) Unlike his predecessors Don Fehr and Marvin Miller, Weiner’s rhetoric is pretty tame.  People close to him have told me that he’s a disarming, and even charming guy in person, and that seems to come through here.  If that’s really the case, I’m not sure what the owners — and the overwhelmingly pro-owner public — will do without an evil, Don Fehr-like bogeyman to attack during the next round of labor talks.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.