LOS ANGELES — Kenley Jansen brought up the S-word on Saturday.
“Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you, to fix everything,” he said during the Dodgers Fan Fest at Dodger Stadium.
Baseball hasn’t had a labor stoppage since the strike in 1994 that bled over into the 1995 season. That wiped out a World Series, but before we get ahead of ourselves here let’s examine why such a thought was expressed by the Dodgers closer.
It has been a painfully slow offseason and here we are just a few weeks before spring training with dozens of free agents still unsigned. Eight of the top 10 free agents from MLB Trade Rumors’ top 50 list are still in search of teams for 2018.
Whether it’s collusion by the owners, or front offices finally acting on the long-known premise that throwing money at free agents is wildly inefficient, or whether the Yankees and Dodgers both trying to get under the competitive balance tax threshold in the same offseason — “There would be some hurdles for us to add any significant contracts at this point,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said Saturday — the free agent market has basically dried up.
“I have my personal thoughts about the market, but I’ll address that with the union,” said Jansen, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Dodgers last winter. “I’m aware of what’s going on.”
We’re only one year in to a collective bargaining agreement that runs through 2021, one that finished off the neutering of teams’ ability to spend on amateur talent with the rigid caps on international spending (the domestic side was already addressed with the allotted draft slot bonus pool in the last CBA). Amateurs and minor leaguers historically get relatively screwed in labor talks since those players aren’t yet part of the union. It has always been easier to negotiate away rights and benefits of these players in the exchange of something for the established union members.
But so far this winter those veteran free agents haven’t seen their usual windfall. Lorenzo Cain ‘s five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers is the only free agent deal of the winter longer than three years.
The players, collectively and understandably, are miffed. Then there is the issue of teams tanking, which further reduces the number of teams willing to spend on the free agent market. Some of those tanking teams receive revenue sharing, exacerbating the issue.
Jansen was asked about one of those teams, the Marlins, who with a brand new ownership group, have completely slashed payroll by dealing the best outfield in baseball — Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich — plus second baseman Dee Gordon.
That’s what prompted the headliner quote from Jansen, which seemed more of a thought experiment than a call to action.
“That’s the thing we might have to address, so we don’t have that many Marlins doing this. Maybe it’s an adjustment for us, as the players union. Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you. That’s how I feel about it,” Jansen said. “Maybe we should go on strike to fix everything. Maybe not. I think we have to address that with the union. I’m not going to say that to you guys.”