Report: Remaining free agents considering starting free agent spring training camp

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has a couple of interesting pieces of information in his latest column. The first is that some of the remaining free agents — of which there are many — are considering starting their own spring training camp. The second is that the MLBPA is investigating whether or not the Marlins and Pirates, who have both traded franchise icons this offseason, are reinvesting their money into baseball operations rather than pocketing it.

The spring training idea is a smart one, though it’s sad that the situation has come to this. Free agents would be hurt competitively by getting a later start to the spring than their under-contract peers. It’s a good idea to collaborate with other free agents so that if and when they finally sign a contract, they are ahead of or on schedule as they would be otherwise. When and where that free agent camp would be held is not yet known.

It is certainly worth the effort for the MLBPA to ensure that the Marlins and Pirates are putting their money back into the team. Catching either team up to no good would, in the short term, potentially add two suitors to the free agent mix. Long term, it would give them significant leverage in negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement, which expires on December 1, 2021. The competitive balance tax, colloquially known as the luxury tax, and the draft are likely to be big topics of conversation. The players’ union will likely try to have the CBT removed entirely and may also try to remove incentives (read: draft picks) for teams to tank.

The MLBPA focused mainly on quality of life changes in the most recent CBA. For example, players received four extra off-days during the season without actually lengthening it. Additionally, start times of “getaway games” — the final game of a series before a team has to get on a plane — were changed to be more player-friendly. Union head Tony Clark has done a fair job at getting the players their QOL changes, but it has come at a monetary expense. That caused one unnamed league official to come out of negotiations for the current CBA saying, “It was like [the players] didn’t care about money anymore.” Clark may not be the leader the players need now that free agents are having so much trouble finding jobs, so a change could be made in the next few years.

This is a very complex issue that won’t have a simple solution. The free agent market is stagnant for many reasons. All front offices are versed in analytics now and are aware how risky big, long contracts are. Also due to analytics fluency, many front offices now think very similarly which reduces players’ leverage. More teams are explicitly tanking in order to build up for the future. Other teams are hesitant to build their payroll up high enough that they exceed the CBT. Many teams have begun signing their talented young players to multi-year contracts before they become eligible for free agency, leaving the market mostly full of players in their 30’s or otherwise lesser-skilled players. Whoever is in charge of the MLBPA when December 1, 2021 rolls around will have to navigate these and other issues, hopefully finding a way to avoid interrupting what is currently 23 years of labor peace.

Astros star Altuve has surgery on broken thumb, a WBC injury

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Houston Astros star Jose Altuve had surgery Wednesday on his broken right thumb, an injury that occurred in the World Baseball Classic and will significantly delay the second baseman’s 2023 debut.

The Astros announced that the 32-year-old Altuve had the procedure done in Houston and will stay there to begin his rehabilitation, with only one week left in spring training. The Astros will fly there on Sunday following their final Grapefruit League game in Florida, before playing a pair of exhibitions against their Triple-A team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, in Texas.

Altuve was hit by a pitch on Saturday while playing for Venezuela in the WBC. He might not be ready to return to the lineup until at least late May. The eight-time All-Star and 2017 American League MVP batted .300 with 103 runs, 28 homers and 18 steals for the World Series champion Astros last season. Mauricio Dubón and David Hensley are the leading candidates to fill in for Altuve at second base.

Altuve isn’t the only Major League Baseball star who was hurt in WBC play, of course. Mets closer Edwin Díaz will miss the 2023 season because of a torn patellar tendon in his right knee as the freak result of an on-field celebration following a WBC win by the Puerto Rico national team.


The Astros also scratched right-hander Hunter Brown from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Brown, who is ranked by MLB as the organization’s top prospect and competing for the last spot in the rotation, has discomfort in his lower back.


The New York Mets sent catcher Francisco Álvarez to Triple-A Syracuse, quashing for now the possibility of putting the prized 21-year-old on the opening day roster.

Álvarez, who made his major league debut with the Mets near the end of last season, had just three hits in 28 at-bats in Grapefruit League exhibition games. Ranked by MLB as the third-best prospect in baseball, Álvarez batted .260 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in a combined 112 minor league games in 2022 at Double-A and Triple-A.

The Mets have newcomer Omar Narváez, a 2021 All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers, as their primary catcher with Tomás Nido likely to play mostly against left-handed pitchers.

Speaking of the Mets, Díaz turned 29 on Wednesday – a rather subdued milestone for the right-hander considering his situation. Diaz nonetheless posted in Spanish an upbeat message on his Twitter account, thanking God for another year of life and describing his health as good and his outlook as positive in this initial stage of the roughly eight-month rehabilitation process.