Despite the uncertainty surrounding baseball’s upcoming collective bargaining agreement, general managers around the league say they’ve been able to operate as usual to this point in the offseason. None of the six GMs who discussed the topic with MLBTR yesterday said uncertainty about the CBA has slowed them down significantly.
“I think this time, early in the offseason, is always slow,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. “A club like ours is not anxious to give up draft picks.”
The Mets are one of many clubs that will remain relatively quiet until they see which ranked free agents obtain offers of arbitration from their former teams seven days from now. In the meantime, the Mets are in limbo, since major changes to the free agent compensation system remain possible.
“There’s some uncertainty about compensation as it relates back to the CBA,” Alderson continued, “but as I said, I don’t think uncertainty is all that meaningful right now because we’re waiting.”
Other general managers have been too busy for the pace of the CBA talks to slow them down. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, for example, has already conducted a managerial search this offseason — and his team wrapped up its World Series title less than three weeks ago. The CBA will affect Mozeliak once the players and owners reach an agreement, but the Cardinals have been too busy for it to slow them down so far.
“It doesn’t feel like it yet,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be creating any type of paralysis on movement that I’m aware of.”
Like Mozeliak, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer is conducting a managerial search. Hoyer reads up on CBA talks when possible, but at this point he’s more concerned with hiring a manager and improving his team’s run prevention than the collective bargaining process.
“It’s something that’s on the back of our minds,” Hoyer said. “Hopefully it happens soon and when it does we’ll look over the details and make decisions.”
Pirates GM Neal Huntington hasn’t had to adjust to a new front office or hire a manager like some of his peers in the NL Central. He says it’s basically business as usual in Pittsburgh, but acknowledges there’s some hesitation.
“You have to be aware of what the rumblings and rumors are on what could change and what the impact would be,” he said. “At the same time, you’ve got to conduct business and keep moving forward to improve the quality of play on the field.”
Chris Antonetti of the Indians echoed Huntington's thoughts, explaining that the uncertainty surrounding the new labor agreement slows offseason movement down to a degree — especially when it comes to ranked free agents.
“To some extent it can,” he said, “depending on the compensation issues. But there are other players where that doesn’t really affect [discussions]. You’re still able to conduct some business, but once we have clarity on the CBA, I think that will give everyone the framework they need to progress.”
Though GMs have been able to work uninhibited to this point, they’ll want certainty within the week. Arbitration decisions for ranked free agents are due next Wednesday and it will be significantly easier for teams and players to progress if the sides announce a CBA, and the uncertainty that currently surrounds issues such as draft pick compensation disappears.