With the free-agent market stalled in part by an increasing number of teams that are not trying to win, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen suggested Saturday that the players might have to consider going on strike for the first time since 1994.
"Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you," Jansen said at the annual Fan Fest at Dodger Stadium.
With spring training little more than two weeks away, more than 100 free agents remain unsigned, including such top players as pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, first baseman Eric Hosmer, and outfielder J.D. Martinez.
At the same time, teams that would formerly plug holes with veteran stopgaps have tended to tank — that is, rebuild without regard to how many games they might lose or how competitive they might be. The last two World Series champions — the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros — followed that path to success.
"You could argue you're going to compete with more clubs to get the first pick in the draft than you would to win the World Series," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told Seattle reporters this week.
The Miami Marlins this winter have slashed payroll by trading all of what might have been the best outfield in the National League last season: Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers and Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The union has lodged a complaint with the commissioner's office over whether the Marlins are properly investing their revenue-sharing millions back into the team, the Miami Herald reported Friday.
"That is something we might have to address, so you don't have a lot of Miami Marlins doing this," Jansen said. "Maybe it's an adjustment for us, as the players' union. Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you. That's how I feel about it."
After players went on strike in 1994, in opposition to the owners' bid for a salary cap, then-commissioner Bud Selig canceled the World Series. The players returned in 1995, and baseball has enjoyed labor peace since then.
However, in the first full winter under the new collective bargaining agreement, big-spending teams such as the Dodgers and New York Yankees have focused on cutting payroll so as not to pay a luxury tax. That effectively has put a soft cap at the top of the market, and the proliferation of tanking teams has chilled the market for what has come to be regarded as baseball's middle class.
It remains uncertain whether players and agents might work with union leadership, or might consider new leadership, in trying to reverse the trend in which players appear to get a declining share of baseball's growing revenue.
The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season, so any strike probably would take place during the 2021 season.
"Maybe I could say that, for me, maybe we should go on strike and fix that," Jansen said. "Maybe not. I think it's a thing we maybe address that to the union. I'm not going to say that to you guys.
"I'm going to have that talk to the union, and we'll see how it goes from there."