Free….but Frozen

NO…you aren’t getting a Free Turkey😊 Hope all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving as the sports world moves on……MLB Free Agency should be in full bloom but….in covid 2020… it is frozen. Why? How?
…As always there are many free agents on the market—285ish players. But the owners, unlike most years, are sitting back and waiting. How will covid impact their 2021 season after a dreadful monetary outcome in 2020 when all teams claimed to have lost money. In the past years, the Cards have carried a payroll in the $160m-$170m range. The primary salaries for 2021 are: Goldschmidt-$26m (for each of the next 4 years); Miles Mikolas-$17m (each of next 3 years); Matt Carpenter-$18.5m (possible buyout option after this year); Dexter Fowler-$16.5m (last year of contract); Carlos Martinez-$11.7m (possible buy out next year); Andrew Miller-#12m. This group of 6 players account for $90m of salary obligations for next year. The Cards typlify many MLB teams—holding a high amount of obligated salaries to a few players, totally unsure of total income in 2021, so… tip toeing around, buying free time (not Free agents) to let time unfold the situation.
…It’s easy to understand that most other MLB teams are in this same “tight” squeeze of obligated expenses with unknown income. The Cards rely heavily on income from home games. 3.1m fans who pay for tickets and refreshments. One can only guesstimate on the Cards income on game day refreshments/souvenirs. Is it $10/$15/$20 profit per fan per game? If just $10/fan, 3.1m times, is $31m profit. It adds up.
….Sooo… like all other MLB teams…. the Cards arms seem frozen as they consider reaching in their pocket books to supplement their roster with a impact free-agent player. Most other teams are in the same frozen condition. The owners can’t be sure that the fans will return to the stadiums in the same flocks that they did prior to Covid. Or even a deeper concern.. have the fans found other interests to fill up their recreation time?
….The Free Agents…maybe ….for the first time will see a shallow, frozen market. A market that likely will not see many multi-year, 8 or 9 digit million dollar contracts as in recent years. I think that the longer this impasse unfolds during the winter the more the leverage swings to the owners. For…maybe… the 1st time since 1972, the owners may be hesitant to reach deep into their pockets. However, you may see trades for players on their last year of a big contract . A team that feels it has little chance of reaching the Sweet 16 of MLB playoffs may consider trading a highly paid star in the last year of his contract then let 2022 take care of itself. Nolan Arenado is such a player.
….One immediate savings that pops up for the Cards is behind the plate. If Yadi returns…and that seems to be a big IF…..I can’t see the Cards offering more than $10m per year. I’ m not sure that I’d offer that much….Yadi has already been paid $154m by the Cards in his career—does the high salary demand just represent his pride at this point? Be that as it may, there is a solid option–Brian McCann. McCann is 30 years old (10 years less than Yadi), was the everyday catcher for Atlanta last year. His salary for the shortened season was $2m. If you prorate that to a full season pay, it’d be $5m. He may be the player that holds down the fort while the next generation Cardinal catcher is seasoned in the minors. Could we “pass on” Yadi– A Cardinal legend? Frankly, I think he’s passing on the Cards. He wants to be on a winner and as he looks around the Card clubhouse, it isn’t there. Legends are important to the Cards history but….they aren’t usually untouchable. We did trade Red Schoendienst .. who also was a legend. Later, he was brought back to be a solid, winning manager for many years. In Addition–very, very few players are frozen on one team for their entire career. Could Yadi do the same? Leave—Return as a manager?
… A date to watch is Wed, Dec 2(this Wed). That is the deadline that teams must inform arbirtration -eligible players whether they will receive a non-guaranteed contract for the 2021 season OR become a free agent. There may be some surprising names on that list. …How did the reserve clause ever develop and remain for 90+ years? Most MLB fans know of the historic Curt Flood case of 1972 that opened the doors to “free agency”. Some background prior to the case—the reserve clause had been part of baseball contracts since Dec 6, 1879. Team owners realized early-on that if players could “pick up” and move to another team on their own desires that the salaries would escalate dramatically for all the players (not just the stars) and the teams. The “reserve” clause (named because the owners reserved the rights to a player for a year after the contract expired. It was further strengthened in 1922 when the Supreme Court ruled that the MLB was an “amusement” not a business.
….in 1946, MLB faced pressure from Jorge Pasquel who owned the Mexican league & decided to woo MLB players by offering them higher salaries. Many MLB players were approached and several players began giving it serious consideration. Our very own, Stan Musial, came out publicly against players departing for Mexico. He said that he wanted to play in America. Always respected by other players as a “good, fair minded guy”, Stan’s words really meant something. Almost immediately, MLB players turned away from Pasquel. Sooo…that basically ended the Mexican League threat to the MLB(only 1 player jumped). In owners meetings after the “Mexican League” fiasco, the MLB owners agreed that the reserve clause was more than likely illegal but …they felt…they needed it to survive. That took us up to Curt Flood’s case. Btw.. Flood thought that the Cards were unhappy with him for misjudging a fly ball in the World Series against Detroit and felt that the Cardinals were punishing him for that rare miscue. Flood was a quality player–He batted .300 in 6 of his 12 seasons, earned 7 Gold Gloves (including an error-less 1966 season). As I’ve said previously, he belongs in the MLB HOF for his actions.
…Another situation of being frozen is the Cincinnati Bengals. Drafting #1 QB Joe Burrow (LSU)last year, the Bengals chose to put a freeze on spending much money on their offensive line(to protect Burrow). Hence, Burrow gets injured severely and the Bengals are now frozen for the season.
…still in the Nearly Forgotten League….wins seem to be frozen in the NFC Cen division. Not one team in the division is .500…or even close to.500. Washington is 4-7, Eagles 3-6-1, Giants 3-7 & Cowboys 3-8. Combined record of 13-28-1…ugh!
…sometimes I think that the NCAA Football Rankings are Frozen. Top 10 team, Notre Dame (8-0) knocks off #1 Clemson…shouldn’t that have made ND #1?… Nope… #2 Alabama slides up to the #1 with their “BIG” win over a tough 2-5 Tennessee team.
….well… my mind is Frozen now….I’m done…at least for the moment…so it’s time to shut it down. It’s super reading your responses to these thoughts. Read the responses to this week’s blog on Facebook (Bob Ryan) or just email it to me and I’ll post it with your initials as the writer. Thanks