After a season like no other, why not throw in an off-season to match?
After months of negotiations, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and MLB team owners have given up. For the first time in 26 years, there will be a work stoppage forming a shadow over America’s greatest pastime.
The stoppage as a whole is remarkably messy, comes as a roadblock to a hot free agency market and shares headlines with a new scandal.
In short: there is a lot to unpack here.
The MLB’s off-season got off to a fiery start, initialized by a remarkable six-year, $175 million contract to middle infielder Marcus Semien from the Texas Rangers. Semien, the former Toronto Blue Jay and Oakland Athletic, is coming off a 131 wRC+ season with the Jays. Yet strangely, he was not even the most lucrative deal of that week. The Rangers would stay busy, signing former Los Angeles Dodgers superstar shortstop Corey Seager to a 10 year, $325 million deal. Seager’s contract would become the highest valued and longest-tenured contract issued during this Winter with Semien and create arguably what is now the world’s strongest middle infield.
Acting out some sort of domino effect, other notable position players would then sign with an array of new teams. Starling Marte went to the New York Mets on a 4 -year deal. Yan Gomes is making the trip to the Chicago Cubs on a 2-year deal. Javier Baez signed a 6-year contract with the Detroit Tigers. Even Eduardo Escobar is starting a new chapter in his career with the Mets.
However, organizations did retain some top-tier talent as well. first baseman Brandon Belt accepted a qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants for $18.5 million, Leury Garcia re-signed with the Chicago White Sox and utility man Chris Taylor signed a 4-year, $60 million deal to stay in Los Angeles for the Dodgers.
Although the position player market was hot, the real story of the offseason free-agent carousel surrounded starting pitchers.
Eduardo Rodriguez kicked off the bidding wars, signing a 5-year deal with the Detroit Lions. With Rodriguez coming off a 3.8 WAR season, the consensus around the baseball world is that Detroit got themselves a steal. Rodriguez’s deal was reached shortly after free agency opened and was followed by a short dead period. The NL West Champion San Francisco Giants would then retain two starters from their rotation with Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood on a 3-year and 2-year deal, respectively.
And then all hell would break loose.
Cy Young vote-getter Kevin Gausman would leave San Francisco for Canada, signing a 5-year, $110 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Later that day, (subjectively fraudulent) American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray would leave for the Emerald City, signing with the Seattle Mariners for 5 years, $115 million. Both starters are slated to be the ace of their new staff.
Shortly after, the finishing touches would be added.
Max Scherzer, one of the top pitchers of our generation, signed the largest annual value contract of any player of all time: a three-year, $130 million pact, good for over $43 million a year.
Consequently, the labor stoppage is a product of greed from both sides. This entire article is about men making far too much money as a whole, however legitimate the labor dispute is. Ultimately, it comes down to millionaires fighting billionaires.
In addition, the ball scandal is like an emphatic cherry on top of an already very chaotic period of time in baseball. Essentially, due to a ball shortage, MLB resorted to using juiced 2020 balls without telling teams or players. As a result, offensive numbers would spike around the second half of the 2021 season, having a significant effect on team performance and game plan.
But really, once you look past the billions spent in free agency, a work stoppage in one of the biggest sports in the world and a juiced ball scandal that no one knew about until two weeks ago, things are looking very routine for what critics love to nickname “the world’s most boring sport.”