Talk of 'spring training boycott' emerges from camp of 'outraged' MLB players


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A prominent Major League Baseball agent shook up the baseball world on Friday by saying that players were “outraged” by the lack of free-agent activity and are “uniting in a way not seen since 1994.”

In an open letter posted to his Twitter account, Van Wagenen, baseball co-head of Creative Artists Agency, said “a fight is brewing” over the lack of player signings this offseason and that a spring training boycott might be in order if teams don’t start signing players soon.

While he did not use the word “collusion” directly, Van Wagenen said the behavior of the owners seemed “coordinated, rightly or wrongly.”

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He is the second high-profile MLB agent to openly question the lack of activity on the hot stove this offseason. Scott Boras has also been critical of the state of affairs, saying that baseball has to “get rid of the noncompetitive cancer” in the sport.

“We can’t go to our fan bases and sell the promise of losing to win later,” Boras said. “That is destructive to our sport because it has removed one-third of the competition.”

Some baseball pundits, like the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan, are skeptical that player outrage is truly as high as Van Wagenen indicated.

“Rest assured there will be baseball, with or without the unsigned players,” Sullivan wrote.

Do you think there will be a spring training boycott?

Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez are among the big leaguers still looking for work this offseason. More than 90 players from this year’s initial free-agent crop are still unsigned.

Van Wagenen represents prominent players including Ryan Zimmerman, Robinson Cano, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes.

CAA also represents current free agents Todd Frazier, Andrew Cashner, Jon Jay, Jason Vargas, Chris Young and Matt Belisle — all of whom remain unsigned.

Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the slow market at the quarterly owners meeting in Beverly Hills, California, on Thursday. He cited several different factors as to why the market is experiencing a downturn at the moment, noting that “every free-agent market is different.”

“There’s different players, different quality of players, different GMs, different decisions, a new basic agreement, different agents who had particular prominence in a particular market in terms of who they represent,” Manfred said. “Those factors, and probably others that I can’t tick off the top of my head, have combined to produce a particular market this year. Just like there’s been some markets where the lid got blown off in terms of player salary growth, occasionally you’re going to have some that are not quite as robust.”

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The commissioner’s office also said via ESPN that a spring training boycott would be a violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

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