Earlier today, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that free agent SS/3B Manny Machado received a seven-year, $175 million offer from the White Sox. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports backed up Olney’s report.
That Machado received such a low offer — he was expected by many to fetch at least 10 years and $300 million at the start of the offseason — was surprising and, as Craig noted, possibly represented a broken labor market.
Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano of MVP Sports Group, released a statement on Wednesday evening, specifically calling out Olney and Nightengale. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Lozano said:
I have known Bob Nightengale and Buster Olney for many years and have always had a good professional relationship with both. But their recent reporting, like many other rumors in the past several months, have been inaccurate and reckless when it comes to Manny Machado. I don’t know if their sources are blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by intentionally misleading them to try and affect negotiations through the public or are just flat out lying to them for other reasons. But the truth is that their reports on the details of the White Sox level of interest in Manny are completely wrong.
I am well aware that the entire baseball universe; fans, players, teams, and media members alike; are starved for information about this free agent market for all players, including Manny. But I am not going to continue to watch the press be manipulated into tampering with, not just my client, but all of these players’ livelihoods as they have been doing this entire offseason. The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate “news” or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that.
Moving forward, I will continue to respect the CBA’s prohibition on negotiations through the media, and hope that others would do the same.
It is no secret that clubs have used reporters to help reduce a player’s leverage. Agents do it, too, though the balance of power is quite different when it’s billionaires versus millionaires (or soon-to-be millionaires). Kudos to Lozano for speaking out and pushing back.
Quite a few reports — not just from Nightengale and Olney — that have come out lately have qualified as blatant obfuscation by someone involved on ownership’s side. Because reporters rightfully protect their sources, there are no consequences for a source giving misleading information to a reporter other than potentially souring the source/reporter relationship itself. As front offices have become increasingly reliant on analytics, they have also become shameless and dispassionate when it comes to creating advantages, including leverage against players. Take, for example, the increasing number of teams willing to go to arbitration hearings against their players, which involves trashing them to their faces. In the min-max mindset, better to trash your player and save a few bucks than to value the relationship at the cost of a couple hundred thousand bucks.
We have, ad nauseam here, talked about the labor climate and a potential strike ahead of the current CBA termination date on December 1, 2021. That an agent had to speak publicly about reporters being used as vessels for misleading information given by ownership minions speaks to the harrowing state of baseball’s labor climate.