Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta is expected to sign with a team “in the next couple of days.” It sounds like several clubs are still in the mix, though the Phillies remain the frontrunner for Arrieta’s services. It’s not yet clear if the club has come around to the idea of a four- or five-year contract or if Arrieta has lowered his asking price in hopes of securing a deal before Opening Day.
Neither Arrieta nor fellow free agent right-hander Alex Cobb have found landing spots so far this spring. With the plethora of free agents signing short-term contracts for well under perceived market value, it seems fairly likely that both pitchers will be forced to adjust their initial expectations, either by signing long-term deals for less money or taking shorter deals with a higher average annual value. It doesn’t help, of course, that Opening Day looms just 18 days away, putting extra pressure on both players and teams to reach less-than-ideal arrangements sooner rather than later.
The Padres, Nationals and Phillies have all been connected to Arrieta over the last month or so, but no concrete offers seem to have materialized lately. Last week, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports observed that the Padres were having “internal discussions” about the 32-year-old right-hander, though he added that signing Arrieta might be a long shot as the club is reportedly looking for a bargain deal and already has a bevy of young pitchers to look at in camp. The Nationals aren’t thought to be seriously considering Arrieta either, especially after discussions with agent Scott Boras went south several months ago. That leaves the Phillies (and any other dark-horse candidates), who have both the cash and the roster space to make a deal work — assuming the two can find some middle ground, that is.
MLBPA player representative Max Scherzer sent out a short statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. On Tuesday, ownership proposed a “sliding scale” salary structure on top of the prorated pay cuts the players already agreed to back in March. The union rejected the proposal, with many worrying that it would drive a wedge in the union’s constituency.
Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive subcommittee along with Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Cory Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Collin McHugh.
After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.
Indeed, aside from the Braves, every other teams’ books are closed, so there has been no way to fact-check any of the owners’ claims. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, for example, recently said that 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenues come from “gameday operations” (ticket sales, concessions, etc.). But it went unsubstantiated because the Cubs’ books are closed. The league has only acknowledged some of the union’s many requests for documentation. Without supporting evidence, Ricketts’ claim, like countless others from team executives, can only be taken as an attempt to manipulate public sentiment.
Early Thursday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLBPA plans to offer a counter-proposal to MLB in which the union would suggest a season of more than 100 games and fully guaranteed prorated salaries. It seems like the two sides are quite far apart, so it may take longer than expected for them to reach an agreement.