By Daniel Bittner
This MLB offseason has been record breaking – not because of any large contracts with big figure dollars or lengthy deals – but rather the opposite: because of its lack of transactions of any type. Some of the game’s biggest stars, including Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, are receiving limited interest and disappointing offers. Meanwhile, players on the wrong end of 30 years old, such as Yasmani Grandal and Andrew Miller, despite being some of the best players at their positions, are having to sign risky, short-term deals with low-market teams to receive any job at all.
While one might assume the cause of this inactivity is due to the depth and abundance of young talent on major league rosters, the real reason is far more disturbing. In fact, many major league teams are unwilling to commit to these prosperous stars simply because these teams want to lose. While the players will still try their best on the field, the goal of the owners and front offices is to lose as many games as possible in order to receive better draft selections in the future. Seeing the success of teams such as the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs who have done this strategy, called ‘tanking’, has resulted in over half of the MLB’s 30 teams attempting to follow in their footsteps today.
In response to this lack of interest to free agents from MLB teams, some of the game’s top stars including Kris Bryant, Evan Longoria, and Jake Arrieta have spoken out against owners and front offices. However, the opposing executives have little incentives to comply with these players’ desires, as while overall attendance over the past years in MLB ballparks has dropped, overall revenues have increased. Thus, the only hope that the players have to right this power imbalance is to halt the executives’ income, by performing a work strike, more commonly known in the world of sports as a ‘lockout’. While the last MLB lockout occurred in 1994, followers of the NBA and NHL can remember them occurring in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Yet while a strike of some sort would be better sooner rather than later, according to the last MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a set of agreements between the players and owners, signed in 2016, a strike of any sort is prohibited until the 2022 season. So unless the owners and players can come to an agreement to resolve these issues before 2022, at least part of the 2022 MLB season may be either delayed or cancelled completely.