Things are getting tense between MLB and the union

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The MLB Players Association and the league have not been on great terms for some time, but things seem to be deteriorating even further.

Yes, there is the potential for some common ground when it comes to a health and safety plan for a 2020 season, but when it comes to the dollars and cents of it all, things are looking dire.

To review:

  • On March 26, MLB and the MLBPA reached a general agreement about how to handle a 2020 baseball season. As far as money goes, there was an agreement that players would be paid on a prorated basis, but a clause in the agreement stipulated that the sides would negotiate in good faith about the economic feasibility of playing a season without fans if that was necessary. There is a lot of disagreement about what that really means;
  • A few weeks ago MLB began to make it public via leaks to reporters that it expected the players to make financial concessions, preferably in the form of a 50/50 revenue split instead of paying prorated salaries. The players, via public statements of union executive director Tony Clark, made it clear that they would not accept that if it were proposed;
  • On May 13 the union nonetheless requested that the league provide it with financial documentation to justify any financial concessions it expects the players to make. The MLBPA has a right to make such a demand under the Collective Bargaining Agreement;
  • Since then a steady stream of leaks from the MLB side of things to MLB-friendly reporters has attempted to push the case that the players are not merely obligated to negotiate with the league, but they are somehow locked into making certain concessions;
  • The most notable of these leaks occurred two day ago when Joel Sherman of the New York Post was given some internal emails from Major League Baseball which his sources attempted to portray as some kind of “smoking gun” that committed the players to do . . . something. For a ton of reasons, both legal and practical, some of which I talked about here, the story Sherman’s sources were trying to create was nonsense. 

Lost in that noise, however, is the fact that . . . Major League Baseball has not yet made a financial proposal to or demand of the players yet. Really, they haven’t. As late as this morning it was reported that they’d be making a formal proposal early next week. But no, there is no demand on the table. All of the demands in the press that the players compromise, fueled as they have been by anonymous sources affiliated with MLB, are, essentially, demands that the players bid against themselves.

Against that backdrop comes this a few minutes ago from Jon Heyman:

Which, yes, that’s a leak too, so it’s not just MLB who is talking to the press about this.

But it does establish that, as the two sides have been presented with the extraordinarily difficult task of coming to an agreement to play a season under unprecedented circumstances that may, in the best of circumstances, be nearly impossible to pull off, MLB’s campaign of trying to negotiate via the media before it even makes a presentation to the players — and before it even gives the players the information they have requested in order to assess any such presentations — has made things even harder.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.