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For the first time in over 25 seasons, there will be a work stoppage in Major League Baseball after team owners voted unanimously on Wednesday night to initiate a lockout. During the lockout period, player signings, trades, and all player transactions will be frozen while players will be barred from contacting team officials and even team doctors.
The main point of contention is and always will be money, and how to split up the profits of the league. How and when players are paid in addition to the manner in which teams conduct themselves in a competitive manner. Currently, there was a system in place where players would reach salary arbitration at three years of service time while reaching free agency after six years. The players union would like to reduce the time in which younger players are compensated while team ownership would prefer to instead eliminate items such as qualifying offers and draft pick compensation while making minor concessions in other areas.
Minor league baseball is still allowed to move on as scheduled, with the exception of players that are on their major league team’s 40-man roster. It is unknown how long the lockout may last, but with over three months until the regular season is scheduled to begin there is some optimism to be had. In the end, baseball fans are likely to see a universal DH, a somewhat revamped arbitration process, a higher luxury tax threshold to allow higher spending, and the elimination of certain incentives for “tanking,” like draft pick compensation and revenue sharing.
Stroman Chooses Chicago
The final day of the current collecting bargaining agreement came with several last-minute decisions from players and teams looking to handle their business heading into the lockout. Marcus Stroman, who was arguably the best starting pitcher left on the open market, went to Twitter to break the news himself that the right-hander would be signing with the Chicago Cubs. The deal is a three-year $71 million pact that includes an opt-out after the second season.
The 30-year-old spent the last three seasons with the Mets and posted a career-best 3.02 ERA over 33 games started in Queens this past season. Stroman is known for finesse rather than power, using his entire arsenal that led to the eighth highest ground ball rate in the league in 2021. There is some concern over the amount of hard contact the right-hander allows (third-worst hard-hit rate in the league) but his ability to keep opposing hitters off-balance has allowed the new Northside resident to overcome that.
Stroman has never posted a FIP over 4.00 in his entire career and keeps the ball in the yard, which will be an important trait playing most of his games at Wrigley Field and the divisional rivals Reds’ Great American Ballpark. The former Met will join Kyle Hendricks, Wade Miley, and Adbert Alzolay on a rebuilding Cubs team that came in as a bit of a surprise for Stroman’s services considering they were expected to remain in rebuilding mode. Perhaps their dormancy was short-lived.
The outspoken righty is not shy about expressing himself on social media, especially when it comes to his craft. Stroman recently posted on how he believes in his approach and evolving arsenal that will allow him to survive in a game where velocity diminishes with age. In 2021 the 5’7’’ hurler added a splitter to his go with his sinker, slider, and cutter to keep hitters off balance. If Stroman can continue his run of consistency over his past two full seasons, the Cubs are likely in for sustained production over the length of this short contract.
One very interesting note from the decision to sign with the Cubs is how Stroman described Chicago as one of his favorite cities. “Culture and passion everywhere. Beyond excited to pitch in front of one of the best fan bases in all of sports,” Stroman tweeted. So what is the interesting part? The veteran has never pitched at Wrigley Field in his seven seasons in the major leagues. He will get plenty of chances now.
Taylor Returns to Dodgers
Chris Taylor and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a four-year $60 million contract on Wednesday that includes a team option for a fifth season. The 31-year-old reportedly had a strong market for his services but decided that staying with the team he has been with since 2016 was more important than money.
The versatile All-Star hit .254 this season with 20 home runs, 73 RBI, and 13 stolen bases while batting .476 in the National League Championship Series against the Braves. In fact, Taylor hit three home runs in Game 5 alone. The utility man has played every position in the major leagues except for catcher and first base and should remain a key contributor next season after the Dodgers lost their star shortstop Corey Seager in free agency.
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Beantown to the Brew Crew
In what turned out to be the final deal before the lockout was imposed Thursday morning, the Red Sox and Brewers agreed to a four-player trade. Boston is sending outfielder Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee in exchange for Jackie Bradley Jr, and prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas.
The 29-year-old Renfroe is fresh off a resurgent season, slashing .259/.315/.501 with 31 home runs and 33 doubles, and is under team control for the next two seasons. He will make for a perfect replacement for Avisail Garcia in Milwaukee, who recently signed with the Marlins. Boston, on the other hand, will be reunited with defensive wizard Jackie Bradley Jr, who is coming off a rather horrendous season. The 31-year-old carried a .163/.236/.261 slash line over 134 games with the Brewers and will make $9.5 million in 2022.
A few bullpens were fortified on Wednesday with potential closers coming to an agreement with their respective teams. Raisel Iglesias re-signed with the Angels, while the reigning MLB saves leader Mark Melancon came to an agreement with the Diamondbacks. A third pitcher, Corey Knebel, also joined up with the Phillies and could be in line for a late-inning role depending on how the rest of Philadelphia’s offseason is handled.
Iglesias signed a four-year $58 million deal with Anaheim after rejecting their $18.4 million qualifying offer on November 17. The 31-year-old posted a career-high 34 saves last season with a 2.57 ERA and 103 strikeouts over 70 innings with only 12 walks. The right-hander converted right saves that required multiple innings of work and was a high priority for general manager Perry Minasian to retain.
Melancon walked away from the Padres in order to sign a two-year $12 contract with the division-rival Diamondbacks. The soon-to-be 37-year-old posted a 2.23 ERA and led the major leagues with 39 saves in 2021 and will now join a 110-loss team that had a 10-31 record in one-run games. The veteran Melancon will go a long way in helping to cure that problem. The deal also includes a $5 million mutual option for 2024 with a $2 million buyout.
Quick Hits: Jordan Lyles agreed to a one-year $7 million deal with the Orioles. … Rich Hill signed a one-year $5 million contract with the Red Sox. … James Paxton joined the Red Sox on a one-year $10 million contract with a two-year team option. … Phillies signed Johan Camargo to a one-year contract. … Padres signed OF Nick Martinez to a four-year $58 million deal and inked RHP Robert Suarez to a one-year contract. … Twins added RHP Dylan Bundy on a one-year $4 million contract with an $11 million team option for 2023. … San Diego signed reliever Luis Garcia to a two-year $7 million deal.