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Adam Wainwright speaks up about baseball’s labor issues

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Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright recently did an interview with InsideSTL.com’s Tim McKernan, which made headlines because the right-hander said, “Unless something changes, there’s going to be a strike. 100 percent.” Wainwright added, “I’m just worried people are going to walk out midseason.”

Baseball’s ongoing struggle between labor and ownership has hit a fever pitch recently as the free agent market continues to stagnate. Among players to have spoken up this offseason are Jeff Samardzija, Justin Verlander, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Arrieta, Evan Longoria, and Buster Posey.

Wainwright took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to expound on his thoughts. Here they are, in chronological order:

Indeed, Wainwright responded to a few people on Twitter who read his series of tweets. This was first:

Wainwright’s comments are thoughtful and worth consideration. Most strikingly, he’s one of the few major leaguers to have directly acknowledged that minor leaguers are severely underpaid and, in fact, exploited. As has been mentioned here, the MLBPA has been happy to ignore this, but fighting for a higher standard of living for minor leaguers would lend credibility when players and agents complain about the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado not getting 10-year contracts worth $300-400 million. Which, by the way, they should.

I appreciated that Wainwright fought back against the thought that player salaries drive ticket prices. It’s a commonly-held belief that is flatly incorrect. Teams set the prices to increase revenues, then when revenues increase, players ask for a commensurate slice of the pie. If player salaries truly drove ticket prices, we would see the cheapest tickets among rebuilding teams, but that hasn’t been the case. For instance, according to CBS News in 2016, Dodger Stadium was among the cheapest places to watch a major league game. The Dodgers had an Opening Day payroll of nearly $250 million that season.

Reliever Brad Brach and first baseman Mark Reynolds also chimed in a bit, talking about their experiences in free agency this offseason.

Hmm.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.