Rob Manfred: Players Association Rejected MLB Free Agency Deadline For Winter Meetings

The MLB free agency period of the offseason was one of the most sluggish in recent years, with many high-profile players who could bring a lot of value to a roster still on the market despite Spring Training games now underway.

Up until Sunday, that group included former National League MVP Cody Bellinger, who was coming off a bounce back year. Bellinger wound up re-signing with the Chicago Cubs, leaving the proverbial “Boras Four” down to a trio of marquee Scott Boras clients being available in Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Matt Chapman.

Recently speaking at Grapefruit League Media Day in Tampa, Fla., MLB commissioner Rob Manfred revealed the league proposed a free agency deadline to the Players Association (MLBPA) but were rebuffed, per David Schoenfield of ESPN:

“We actually made proposals to that effect to the MLBPA. They were not warmly received,” he said. “With the system we have right now, one of the tactics that’s available to player representatives is to stretch out the negotiation in the belief they’re going to get a better deal. That’s part of the system right now. There’s not a lot we can do about it. Certainly, from an aspirational perspective, we’d rather have two weeks of flurried activity in December, preferably around the winter meetings where you’re all there to write about it.”

If MLB is attempting to imitate the NFL’s free agency period, their proposed plan is not one that accurately follows in those footsteps.

To begin with, there is not a two-week period and subsequent deadline for contracts to be agreed to. Secondly, NFL free agency truly begins 52 hours before more officially starting, in the so called legal tampering period, which is a time where teams can have preliminary contract discussions with players.

That allows reports of contracts to come out so quickly because they have already been agreed upon verbally.

There is also an argument to be made that each sport has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the NFL and NBA may have a more dynamic and fast paced free agency, but neither come close to touching the chaos and excitement of the MLB trade deadline.

In the NFL especially you will never see someone like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen moved at the trade deadline. But in MLB there will always be a Juan Soto, Trea Turner or Manny Machado traded seemingly every season at the deadline.

MLB free agency changes should not be motivated by owners’ greed

Just because the aforementioned proposal to change MLB free agency is not the change the league needs, it’s not to suggest there isn’t a need for improvement.

However, if changes are to be made, it must be done to grow excitement around the sport and not because the owners wish to pressure players into taking more team-friendly contracts, which certainly looks like the aim of imposing a deadline.

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