Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is holding out hope for a peaceful solution, in concert with the players’ association, on pace of play issues. Yet, considering what has happened in free agency this winter, where you could build a formidable All-Star team with all of the players still unsigned, lingering tension may dash those placid visions.
The players already are livid, with no player signing a bigger deal than center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s five-year, $80 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Less than two weeks before spring training camps open, there still are more than 120 unsigned free agents.
Manfred says it’s not a byproduct of devious misbehavior, but simply a convergence of various factors.
“Every [free-agent] market is different,’’ Manfred said. “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.
“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.’’
There’s also the fact that nearly one-third of the 30 teams this year are rebuilding, and have no interest in the free-agent market, but Manfred dispels the idea that teams are losing on purpose to gain one of the top draft picks.
“Teams have always done best when they bring a cohort of players together and that team matures together and grows together. I don’t see any conceptual change on that topic.’’
At the same time, the players will tell you they’re not rushing into any sort of conceptual change on pace of play, either.
“As we sit here today, the first week of February, our focus is on the 100-plus free agents still available,” MLB players’ association executive director Tony Clark said in a statement released to news outlets, including USA TODAY Sports. “Players and the players association remain committed to the competitive integrity of the game on all fronts, including on field rules.”
The cold war continues.