MLBPA releases statement denying threat of a spring training boycott

AP Photo/Richard Drew
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In a column for The Athletic published on Friday, Ken Rosenthal reported that players asked union officials in a conference call about collectively refusing to report to spring training until February 24, the mandatory reporting date. Union officials said that would constitute an unlawful strike in violation of the CBA, so the players put the kibosh on the idea.

Just to make things clear, the MLBPA released a statement on Sunday clarifying that the union isn’t threatening or recommending any such boycott.

In the past week or so, we’ve seen some agents (Brodie Van Wagenen and Josh Kusnick) and some players (Kenley Jansen) make some public comments regarding the current situation that finds many free agents teamless with spring training on the horizon. It was Van Wagenen in particular who threw out the idea of a spring training boycott, writing, “There is a rising tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two, and perhaps 1,200 willing to follow. A boycott of Spring Training may be a starting point, if behavior doesn’t change.”

Players and agents can go rogue all they want, but as a cohesive group, the union wants to make sure all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed, so to speak, when it’s going up against ownership. As Craig pointed out on Twitter, players and agents are only “going rogue” because they feel like their voices are not currently being adequately represented by the union. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that one player wanted to make a mockery of the arbitration process by filing for a salary figure ending in 420,069. The player ultimately decided against doing that. Other players have suggested starting their own free agent spring training camp.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021. That’s a long time from now. The owners and the players are going to eventually have to work together to bring balance back to the marketplace. Passan quotes an unnamed longtime agent saying, “The war drums today are louder than they were in 1993. There is anger. Real anger.”

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.