New York- The inevitable occurred at the stroke of midnight and that meant Wednesday was the first work stoppage for baseball since the 1994-95 strike as players and owners could not reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
So for the time being, and until there is a new agreement, all baseball business with owners, players, and their agents came to a halt. The impact is no free agent signings, trades. Players are not permitted to enter facilities for business or tending to offseason training regimes that are a normal process.
How long this lockout will cease baseball operations is not known. The issues revolve around salary structures, team luxury taxes, arbitration and service time, implementation of expanding teams to qualify for the postseason, rule changes including a universal DH.
And much more, but it revolves around money. Fans don’t want to hear about a war between millionaires versus billionaires. Baseball can’t afford a long and nasty work stoppage, and at least for the next few months baseball will be on the back burner. They will try to negotiate a new CBA with hopes spring training camps open on time as well as the start of the 2022 season.
The players saw this coming five years ago when the last CBA went into effect. They did not get what they wanted then,as one player informed me Wednesday,”We need to get back what we have lost,” referring also to lost revenue of last year when owners imposed a truncated 60-game schedule due to the global pandemic.
“I do not doubt the league and the players sharea fundamental appreciation for this game and a commitment to its fans” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement published on MLB.com moments after the lockout commenced.
“I remain optimistic that both sides will seize the opportunity to work together to grow, protect, and strengthen the game we love,” Manfred said.
But the past few weeks, prior to racing the clock, transactions and a frenzy of big money contracts were granted to players in excess of a billion dollars. The complexion of rosters changed and the two busiest teams were the Mets and Texas Rangers.
The past two weeks resembled a July baseball trade deadline in November.The star of the show was three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer signing with the Mets. The Mets made an impact also adding outfielders Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and infielder Eduardo Escobar with guaranteed contracts of the four in excess of $254.5 million.
So when baseball resumes the Mets are expected to wheel and deal some more, as will other teams that in all probability wanted to await the lockdown conclusion and know more about a new CBA and how finances are situated.
The Mets had to make an impact and they did. New General manager Billy Eppler said Wednesday the signings were an indication of a new culture in the Mets clubhouse and coexist with each other that are on the roster.
“Building a culture with the organization,” he said. “Excited to bring this group in the fold,” also making reference there is a reality to whatever there is activity to make additional moves.
The Mets reportedly are still in search for another starter in their rotation with the departure of Marcus Stroman signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs. They are also seeking bullpen reinforcements and adding another possible potent bat to their lineup.
But it all reflects on spending and owner Steve Cohen, the richest owner in baseball, has made it known he’ s willing to use his financial resources to put a winning team on the field.
The Mets prior to the lockdown have the richest payroll in baseball and are in that category over $200 million for the first time in franchise history.
Marte, 33, has always been on their radar and his contract is worth $78 million. He adds speed to the lineup and led baseball this season with 47 stolen bases combined with the Marlins and A’s. He does not hit the home run ball often but gets on base and covers a lot of range in the outfield.
He joins fellow friend and Dominican Robinson Cano. Suspended last year for violating the MLB illegal substance policy, Cano is expected to be a vital part of the Mets lineup. Marte said part of his decision to sign with the Mets was joining Cano on the roster.
Marte said he was also enticed to play in a market and New York City that comprises a huge base of Latino fans.
“I have a good relationship with Cano,” Marte said through an interpreter during a Mets Zoom media session. “Wanted to be his teammate. I will play any position they need me to help them win.”
The Mets also continue their search for a new manager that will continue during the lockout. Eppler said the search has been extensive and moving forward but a final decision has not been reached to replace former manager Luis Rojas.
Escobar, 32-years old and native of Venezuela could fill an infield spot or become an everyday regular in the lineup. He split last season with Arizona and Milwaukee and prefers playing third base but is flexible to be inserted at shortstop or second.
“I can contribute,”he said. “I am the type of player that, as long as I see my name in the lineup, I’m fine,” he said through an interpreter during the same Zoom media session. “
Said Eppler about the changing of a Mets roster, also deciding not to engage further with Javier Baez who signed a contract with the Tigers, “It provides positional flexibility and depth and really allows to take a lot of the elements that get introduced over the course of a 162-game season.”
But by far the signing of Scherzer makes the Mets a better team. A healthy two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, with Scherzer back-to-back in the rotation ,has a nice tune. Forget about the past and look at these monumental free agent signings in Mets history.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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