MLBPA director Tony Clark is not happy about an ESPN article that ran on Wednesday that includes anonymous quotes from MLB executives speculating on the current market value of free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. The subscriber only article written by Buster Olney includes at least eight ESPN sources stating that teams would only be willing to offer the Scott Boras clients one-year contracts in the $5 million-$10 million range, which if true or not would obviously affect their negotiating positions.
In his discontent, Clark released the following statement to the media on Friday, which seemingly implies collusion and clearly asks the Commissioner's Office to begin an investigation:
"I am angered that numerous anonymous baseball executives have blatantly and intentionally violated our collective bargaining agreement by offering to ESPN comments about the free agent values of Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. These statements undermine the free agent rights of the players and depress their market value. Today, I have called upon the Commissioner's Office to investigate immediately and thoroughly the sources of these statements and to take appropriate action to enforce our agreement."
It's easy to see where Clark is coming from. The comments quoted in the article serve no purpose other than to deflate the already underwhelming markets for both players, which is obviously concerning for the MLBPA. However, MLB's Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred suggests it's wasted time and energy getting worked up when the sources are and will remain anonymous.
“Over the years, I have learned that it is a waste of time to pay attention to anonymous quotes which may or may not be genuine. Given that the regular season is well under way, it is hard to imagine that anonymous comments would have any effect whatsoever on the market for any individual player. There are many other factors that better explain the current situation faced by a very small number of free agents.”
Basically what Manfred is saying is MLB likely won't bother moving forward with an investigation because it's impossible to know where to even begin. There's no way ESPN will give up their sources, and without leads they have no direction with which to travel or even verify who said what. All they can do is throw out a blanket warning that's not likely to change things anyway.
The other factors Manfred makes reference to obviously revolve around baseball's free agent compensation rules. Under those rules, if either Drew or Morales signs with a new team before the 2014 first year player draft in June, that team will be forced to give up their highest remaining unprotected draft pick.
That rule has effectively crushed their value, as many teams would rather avoid losing a draft pick unless a desperate need pops up. However, in order to achieve compensation status both players had to turn down one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offers. They knew the gamble they were taking, and to this point it hasn't paid off for either.
As for Clark's stance on the executives speculating out loud, it's much ado about nothing unless MLB finds a reason to move forward with an investigation. But the players probably appreciate the fact that the MLBPA is paying attention to everything that's being said and isn't afraid to voice its displeasure when it applies.
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