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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Unsigned MLB Stars Spark Tension Between Teams, Players, and Union

  • Nineteen teams are currently projected to open the 2024 season with reduced payrolls.
  • The Twins’ owner makes comments that could run afoul of prohibitions in the current labor deal.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

MLB’s remaining batch of available free agents is creating a new level of angst between teams and the players’ side, which also includes their agents and the MLB Players Association. 

As spring training games have now begun, a key quartet of star players still have not signed with any team for the 2024 season: reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, World Series hero Jordan Montgomery (above), four-time Gold Glove winner Matt Chapman, and slugger J.D. Martinez. All are represented by prominent agent Scott Boras, who openly lamented top players being available while the league continues to generate record-level annual revenue of more than $11 billion.

In particular, 19 teams are currently projected to open the season with lower payrolls than last year. Perhaps most notable among the group is the Padres, who have slashed their spending from last year’s $256 million to this year’s $145 million. 

“Clubs have plenty of money to spend, but they’re not spending in a matter that is customary to competitiveness,” Boras said to USA Today. “It’s not that they don’t have the ability to pay, but their choice to regress on their payrolls.”

Words Matter

The stance by Boras speaks in part to an ongoing tension between the rising earning power in the sport and the $237 million initial threshold for MLB’s competitive balance tax, a figure eight teams are currently over in their planned 2024 spending. Twins owner Jim Pohlad was among the latest to speak to that tension on WCCO Radio. The club has lowered its payroll after reuniting with regional network Bally Sports at revised terms. 

“We’re not going to go out and spend $30 million on a player right now. The players out there right now that a bunch of fans are talking about, we’re not in the market for those players,” Pohlad said. 

Such specifically stated comments, however, could run afoul of the current labor deal with the players, which prohibits both sides from “making comments to the media about the value of an unsigned free agent, or about possible contemplated terms for an unsigned free agent.” The labor agreement also particularly prohibits public team comments about being out of the market for a certain player. 

According to multiple reports, the union could pursue a formal grievance due to this. As of now, though, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the organization is still gathering information about the current market before reaching any definitive conclusions. 

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