Monday, January 30, 2023

Baseball GMs go on as usual, slow as lockout looms

Carlsbad, Calif. (AP) — Used to the often glacial pace of baseball free agency in recent winters, general managers aren’t treating the threat of work halting next month even as a speedbump in the game’s off-season.

While other sports begin a free agent frenzy in the first few days of their business seasons, front-line baseball free agents increasingly delay decision making until spring training approaches.

The lockout is likely when baseball’s labor contract expires on December 1, which would be the game’s first work stop in 26 years.

“We’re going about business as usual and remain optimistic that what we’ve seen over the past three decades will hopefully continue,” Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said on Tuesday in the first full day of Major League Baseball. Will stay.” In person GM meetings over two years.

Almost the same words were repeated by baseball operations executives of other teams, making it seem like a common talking point distributed prior to their media availability.

Unless there is an agreement, teams cannot be sure what the luxury tax levels will be for 2022. The current tax system gets sunset with the end of the labor deal.

“I think you can cripple yourself trying to plan for every one of them,” Houston GM James Click said of the many possibilities. “Obviously the baseball landscape could look a lot of different ways in a month or two. We’re optimistic about that. Hopefully, it’s business as usual. And we’ll try to plan for it as best we can. But We are dealing with the economic world we have now and trying to plan for potential in the future.”

Deputy Commissioner Dan Halim, management’s chief negotiator, was in town for GM meetings, while Bruce Meyer, the union’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, was at a neighboring hotel in Carlsbad for union sessions with player agents. The two sides were to meet as part of months-long talks. People on both sides said that the players and the owners differ on the big economic issues.

The percentage of free agents with completed agreements jumped from about 25% in 2018 to 33% in 2019 during the third week of January, rising to about 55% in 2020, then dropping to 17% last season.

“It really depends on each agency and then each individual and then where you are as a team and what your particular strategy is,” said Toronto general manager Ross Atkins. “It takes a good amount of time to prepare 30 teams and X number of players and all their representation. And then teams and agents and players want to learn a little bit more before moving on, and that’s part of the learning process.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is about to leave in 2022, knowing New York gets under the $210 million luxury tax threshold this year. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego were projected to exceed the threshold in 2021, pending final payroll figures next month.

“We’ve clearly put ourselves in a better position. We reset ourselves in CBT,” Cashman said, referring to the acronym for Competitive Balance Tax, officially. “This last year was important to us. That’s the big unknown. It’s business as usual as we’re going through our negotiations under the current agreement, and if it changes we’ll adjust those changes whenever.” They will both come on the same page and find common ground.”

Seattle President of Baseball Operations Jerry DiPotto insists he is not trying to predict where the settlement takes place.

“What you’re doing is driving yourself crazy,” he said. “Just focus on what you can control and stay disciplined.”


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