9:50pm: Anthopoulos has issued a statement (via the Braves, on Twitter), saying: “In advance of the General Managers meetings, I called around to Clubs to explore the possibility of potential off-season trades. At no time during any of these calls was there discussion of individual free agents or the Braves’ intentions with respect to the free agent market. To the extent I indicated otherwise during my media availability on Monday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion.”
5:40pm: Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, announced Wednesday that the MLBPA has launched an investigation looking into recent comments from Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Specifically, the union took umbrage with the following comment Anthopoulos made during a recent conference call with Atlanta beat writers (link via The Athletic’s David O’Brien):
Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs — obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up — but we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.
The MLBPA’s issue stems from Anthopoulos’ acknowledgment of getting a feel for how other clubs plan to act in free agency. With regard to sharing intel in free agency, the collective bargaining agreement states: “Players shall not act in concert with other Players, and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.” In a press release, Clark expressed extreme displeasure with Anthopoulos’ assertion and offered the following response:
The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system. The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.
It’s the latest chapter in a saga that has seen tension between labor and management mount at an alarming rate. Clark and the Union have previously asked the league to investigate whether low-payroll clubs have appropriately utilized their revenue-sharing resources — the Pirates and Marlins, specifically — as multiple agents (including agent-turned-Mets-GM Brodie Van Wagenen) have spoken of “coordinated” efforts on the part of owners to scale back salaries at the Major League level. Clark has also accused MLB teams of a “race to the bottom,” and more recently raised issue with teams’ early assertions that they’ll face payroll constraints despite the continual increase in franchise values. (The Royals and Marlins have recently sold for $1 billion and $1.2 billion.)
There’s been no shortage of speculation surrounding a potential labor stoppage at the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement (in 2021). The extent of the unrest has prompted the league and the union to begin negotiations for the next CBA much earlier than they’d normally have begun such discussions, but today’s statement from Clark only underscores the chasm that currently exists between the two sides.