We’re under one year away from the expiration of Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement which means 2021 will be loaded with all kinds of back-and-forth between the league and the Players’ Association over various labour-related topics.
A couple of key things, the universal designated hitter and an expanded post-season, were rejected by the MLBPA as modifications ahead of the 2021 season…
The COVID-shortened 2020 season featured both of these things as “trials”, so it seemed pretty inevitable that MLB would try to make them both long-term changes. But, unsurprisingly, the players aren’t using an expanded post-season, which is an interesting negotiation chip for them, just yet.
This is essentially MLB offering to give the players a universal designated hitter, which is advantageous to them in that it results in ~15 extra late-career jobs in the National League for guys who can’t hack it in the field, in exchange for a massive revenue increase for the league by having more playoff games.
I would bet that we see the MLB and the PA agree to these things before the 2021 starts but the players will be seeking more of a sweetener.
Personally, I really couldn’t care less about the universal DH. I see both arguments. It’s probably best not to have pitchers batting but I do quite like the National League game. The expanded post-season is a difficult one. The more teams in the mix, the less meaningful the season. But I’m also a Toronto Blue Jays fan and I’ve seen the team make the playoffs three times in my 27-year life, so can I really complain about more teams getting in?
Next up, we have this nugget from Buster Olney…
Which comes one day after this guy for Cubs Insider said this…
The second post is pretty obviously conjecture, but it’s interesting to see what somebody who pays a lot of attention to the Cubs has to say about what a Kris Bryant and Kyle Hendricks deal to the Blue Jays might look like. Based on this post, it seems Cubs fans aren’t expecting much of a return, which likely has to do something with the whole lot of nothing the team received for giving away Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres earlier this winter.
The Olney report isn’t really much or a report either, but some random MLB front office executive said that he figures the Blue Jays and Mets are the most likely suitors for both Bryant and Hendricks. Again, this doesn’t mean much, as the Blue Jays and Mets have been the most aggressive teams all off-season, so that’s obviously who anybody paying attention would assume is most likely to pull the trigger on such a deal.
The Bryant and Hendricks conversation is an interesting one.
As I’ve said before, the starting pitcher free-agent market isn’t really all that good this winter, and Hendricks is better than every name out there other than Trevor Bauer (and even that’s debatable in Hendricks’ favour). Hendricks is also cost-controlled at a very, very reasonable $14,000,000 for three more seasons, which is significantly cheaper than it’ll likely cost to net Bauer.
Bryant is only one year from unrestricted free agency and is coming off of a terrible, injury-riddled 2020 season. Adding him would be buying into the expectation that he can put together a rebound season before hitting the open market. Even if the Jays never consider re-signing him, they would be able to qualify Bryant and get a draft pick if they were to make this trade before the season.
Hendricks and Bryant would satisfy Toronto’s two biggest remaining needs — a top-end starting pitcher and a legitimate third baseman — and it would immediately vault them into the conversation for the top team in the American League.
But, if you’re the Blue Jays, are you better off making a trade to fill these two holes or can you do so in free agency without giving up any prospects in return? As I said earlier, San Diego gave up fuck all for Darvish
, so maybe the Jays can execute another fleecing of the Cubs.
Circling back to the universal DH thing, this could wind up being advantageous to the Blue Jays. The Dodgers would obviously be more inclined to keep Turner around as a bat-only guy if they had the DH, but that remains an uncertainty for them.
Turner is 36 years old now but he’s still very productive at the plate. He slashed a .307/.400/.460 line for L.A. last season and went 8-for-25 with two dingers in the World Series. The question here is how long he can he a realistic option at third base.
He’s an upgrade over Vlad Jr. there right now, which is more of a testament to Vlad being a bad fielder than it is for Turner being a good one, but there’s concern about how he would fare on Toronto’s turf and how much he could realistically keep going as an everyday fielder into his late-30s.
Finally, we have some AL East news, as the Boston Red Sox are going ahead and doing the New York Yankees a favour by taking a problematic contract off their hands…
The Yankees have quietly had a nice off-season. They re-signed DJ LeMahieu and added starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon to their rotation. Moving Ottavino’s $9,000,000 salary to Boston gives New York some more room to work with underneath the luxury tax threshold.