Via Ken Rosenthal -
Donald Fehr, head of the players’ union, is not ready to conclude that owners are conspiring to hold down free-agent salaries.
But Fehr admitted Friday to “heightened” concern about the state of the market, citing the large number of free agents who remain unemployed.
Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training in two weeks, yet nearly 90 free agents are still looking for jobs.
The union examines trends in every free-agent market, but will not decide whether to file a collusion grievance until the signing period is complete.
“Obviously, we’ve looked at it every year since the mid-1980s,” Fehr told FOXSports.com. “That concern becomes heightened when you go late into the period of time when players should be signed and many fewer players have signed and spring training is nearer.”
While club executives cite the faltering economy as the reason for the sluggish market, some agents say privately that the owners are working in concert to avoid competitive bidding for free agents.
Arbitrators ruled that owners violated the collective-bargaining agreement in such fashion in 1985, ’86 and ’87, leading to a settlement in which the owners paid the players $280 million in damages.
The union, before filing a grievance, would need to decide whether the agents are merely speaking out of frustration or whether facts support their claims.
The economy clearly is responsible for the plummeting values of many free agents. The union likely would take exception, however, if clubs deemed some of those free agents to have little or no value.
“No matter what the general climate is, we’re certain clubs want to put the best possible teams on the field,” Fehr said.
“There are certainly a significant number of quality players available that can help a lot of teams. I’m hoping the situation will rectify itself.”
If they do file charges, and teams are hit with fines, it will be interesting to see how this touches the Yankees. On one hand, the Yankees spent a half-billion dollars on three players this off-season. But, on the other hand, the Yankees used the present market conditions to get Andy Pettitte to sign a deal that is almost entirely incentive driven. So, should New York be excluded from any fines assigned to MLB, should they not, or, should they get less of a fine?