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The kerfuffle over rumored offers to Manny Machado is a bad sign for MLB labor relations

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Every time we hear things like this, it makes owner/player relations worse.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Around midday Wednesday, a tweet from a respected national reporter about free agent Manny Machado was sent out with a specific dollar figure noted:

Buster Olney’s tweet was later quote-tweeted by Bob Nightengale, with a small detail added:

As you no doubt know, this sent almost everyone in baseball-land into a tizzy. $175 million is at least $100 million below the offer that Machado supposedly was looking for this winter, and the overall years/dollar figure amount isn’t that much different than what Jason Heyward received from the Cubs before 2016. At that price, many said, almost every team should be “in” on Machado.

In this era of speedy news cycles, it didn’t take more than a few hours for Machado’s agent to issue a statement:

There are two things in particular from that statement that I want to highlight here. First:

I don’t know if their sources are blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by intentionally misleading them to try and affect negotiations through the public or are just flat out lying to them for other reasons.

Whether you believe it or not, this sort of thing happens all the time. “Major league sources,” as they are often called by reporters, tell said reporters things that they want floated as trial balloons. Or they want to try to drive the price up for other teams. Or they have a myriad of other reasons beyond “I want this reporter to tell the truth.” I’m not the only one who noticed this Wednesday:

Second:

I am well aware that the entire baseball universe; fans, players, teams, and media members alike; are starved for information about this free agent market for all players, including Manny. But I am not going to continue to watch the press be manipulated into tampering with, not just my client, but all of these players’ livelihoods as they have been doing this entire offseason. The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate “news” or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that.

This is exactly correct, and again, it happens all the time. Attachment 49 to the MLB/MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement does indeed specifically prohibit these kinds of reports, as Dan Lozano stated:

(1) The Covered Parties may not (i) disclose to the media the substance of contract discussions between a player and a Club (including but not limited to the facts of offers, the substance of offers, or decisions not to make offers or to withdraw offers) until after terms on the contract have been confirmed by the Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association; or (ii) announce an agreement on a contract that is contingent on the player passing a Club-administered physical examination until after the player has passed that physical examination.

(2) Similarly, none of the Covered Parties may make comments to the media about the value of an unsigned free agent, or about possible or contemplated terms for an unsigned free agent, regardless of whether discussions have occurred. The prohibitions apply equally to comments that are on and off the record, as well as to comments that are provided on the condition of anonymity or published without identifying the source (e.g., “an industry source”).

Those two paragraphs would seem to me to indicate that we shouldn’t be hearing anything about player negotiations, offers, etc., much less a specific year/dollar amount of a supposed offer to a specific player.

I’ll just repeat this part of Lozano’s statement, with boldface added by me for emphasis:

I am well aware that the entire baseball universe; fans, players, teams, and media members alike; are starved for information about this free agent market for all players,

Indeed, with the free-agent market as slow as it is, sure, we’re all “starved for information,” but the two paragraphs from the CBA seem pretty clear that these Lozano is correct in stating that “reports” like the ones we saw Wednesday about Machado do a disservice to the player, to teams interested, and to the game, and they cannot be good for the future of these sorts of negotiations or, indeed, for player/management relations in general.

It might be extrapolating a bit too much to say what I’m about to say, given that we don’t yet know where or for how much Machado (or, for that matter, Bryce Harper) is going to sign. But I think that the fact that a player agent had to make such a strong and definitive statement on this topic does not bode well for the next set of labor negotiations.

The current CBA ends after the 2021 season. It’s entirely possible that there won’t be a 2022 MLB season.