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Player’s Union Is Falling Down On The Job

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v. Minnesota Twins - Game Two
Still available to the highest bidder.
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Whether you consider them greedy because they’re millionaires, or not greedy because they’re fighting for a pot of money with billionaires, the MLBPA exists to create better financial opportunities for its members: major league baseball players.

So you would think the union would be active where it sees money earmarked for players being withheld, siphoned, or anything but properly dispersed. And this should be benefiting the A’s, as well as the A’s ability to remain in Oakland.

Yet it isn’t. Why?

Revenue sharing is clear: that money is supposed to go towards leveling the playing field by offering teams like the A’s more payroll flexibility. The way the free agent market has evolved in 2024, many free agents remain unsigned just a month before the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues spring into action.

Not just the fringey names either. Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery headline the starting pitchers yet to sign anywhere. Fellow Boras client Matt Chapman is still in free agent purgatory, as is Cody Bellinger (rumored to be close to re-signing with the Cubs).

Granted, right now Oakland is not a desirable destination especially for long-term contracts, thanks to the farcical vote to let the A’s try to relocate without an interim home or the guarantee of successfully departing.

What that means, though, is that for a free agent struggling to land a multi-year deal the A’s could well swoop in and offer a superior one-year contract. For a pitcher hoping to enhance his stats and try again next fall — someone like Alex Wood, for example — Oakland might be tempting if offered a good one-year deal. Coming off his poorest overall season (3.5 WAR), it wouldn’t actually be a terrible move for Chapman to return to a familiar place for a one-year revival if the dollars were higher than competing one-year offers.

Trouble is the A’s have seemingly no interest in spending the revenue sharing money that is precisely earmarked for this purpose. What could prompt Oakland to add $20M-$25M to its payroll is pressure from MLBPA and the threat of losing revenue sharing money if it is not properly spent.

But if MLBPA is pressuring the A’s to spend its revenue sharing money on remaining free agents, it is doing so extremely behind the scenes. Nothing of the sort has been so much as suggested. Having the A’s make bloated one-year offers to top players would enhance their market by forcing other teams to step up with superior multi-year offers. It would create a 30 team market instead of 29.

No matter how you view it, it’s a win for the players union when a team gifted a ton of money intended for competitive balance actually tries to use it to compete. And failing to insist on it is a loss.

Why isn’t the union doing its job as a watchdog? Why did they allow, without so much as a whimper, the A’s to granted revenue sharing status going forward despite having already shown they will pocket that money instead of creating competition?

Is the union also going to allow its big league players to travel to minor league facilities for 3 years or more, so that the A’s can shack up in Sacramento or Salt Lake City or Summerlin? “A sold out crowd of 7,500 is enjoying another 102 degree day...!”

I’ll give the union this one for now: they haven’t yet been given a specific request to say “no” to. But if and when the question arises, “Can the A’s play in this minor league stadium for at least the next 3 years?” the answer should be a loud and instantaneous “Hell no!”

If I don’t have more confidence in the union to do this, when the time comes, it’s because they seem satisfied to let the A’s receive $100M free dollars to bring in Abraham Toro and Miguel Andujar — and then to sign off on letting the practice continue indefinitely.

Not sure what the union is thinking here. Unlike me, an A’s fan, the union doesn’t especially care whether the A’s win or lose. But they do care about all the players on all the teams making as much money as possible, and they are shooting themselves in the foot on that front as well.

No pressure. No accountability. No compredo.