Does The MLB Have A Collusion Problem?

As has already been discussed, Nolan Arenado has re-upped with the Rockies. While most people are focused on the mammoth eight year deal worth $255 million, some are more interested with the opt-out. Seeing as it lines up right with when the collective bargaining agreement expires. Couple this with the somewhat puzzling deals Aaron Nola, Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks all just inked juxtaposed to the non-deals elite free agents like Bryce Harper and Craig Kimbrel aren’t getting, and it’s beginning to raise eyebrows.

Well, that’s not true. Eyebrows were raised last offseason when my pal Jared blogged about a major MLB agent hinting at collusion. That agent was Brodie Van Wagenen, now GM of the New York Mets. Which, the conspiracy theorist in me has all sorts of bells and whistles raging in my brain.

The Van Wagenen hiring was highly scrutinized, mostly because it was the Mets making an outside-the-box type move. But moving from “agent highly criticizing the League” to “one of 30 guys in the League” in a year’s time is certainly interesting. Especially when a player he once represented, reigning CY Young winner Jacob deGrom, hasn’t been able to reach a deal with the Mets this offseason. Granted, he is under contract, there have been no signs of foul play with his negotiations, and per arbitration he was given a massive raise. Just as a human being it’s weird to me that a guy’s former agent, a man who was months ago fighting for a deal he would have deemed fair and reasonable, can now not strike the same deal from within. Again, I understand that due to conflict of interests he cannot even be present during these negotiations, but as the head of the franchise you’d think it would be much easier than it has proven to be.

But bringing in an agent who was so critical a year ago, threatening strikes and lockouts on behalf of the players, was brought on by the other side. And there is perhaps no better organization in all of sports to play the role of the patsy than the New York Mets. Them hiring a GM potentially completely incapable of the role and having the experiment fizzle out in a few years, likely around the time the new CBA is agreed upon, could be a weird coincidence. I don’t really do coincidences though, so this is very clearly the MLB buying one of it’s loudest critic’s silence. And if this is how the League is going to treat its detractors, let me be loud in clear by announcing my detractment. Go ahead. Make me a GM, you cowards.

The most interesting piece of evidence in this collusion thought process came from Francisco Liriano.

Now, Liriano is far from a front-line starter in today’s day and age. I’m not saying he should have got a massive deal to be a team’s number 2. It’s just weird that he got a rush of Minor League deals, for the same money, all in the same week. The collusion doesn’t lie in the top end guys like Harper, who only a handful of teams would have considered signing in the first place. Last year by early February there were over 100 free agents without homes. This year there have been an influx of minor league deals for major league talents. Jose Iglesias, Trevor Plouffe, Logan Forsythe, Hanley Ramirez, Ervin Santana, Hunter Pence, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ben Revere, the list goes on and on for guys who in the past would have guaranteed roster spots now scratching and clawing for the best chance to maybe make some money.

Maybe some teams are learning from past mistakes and not signing bad contracts that ultimately set their franchises back. That’s more than fair and certainly possible in some spots. I find it hard to believe all 30 teams learned this lesson simultaneously. I find it impossible to believe the New York Yankees, who have been positioning themselves specifically for a big splash this offseason, are now operating like a small market team by inking role players to fill out their roster. It just doesn’t make sense.