Will Stephen Drew's free agency struggles lead to MLB labor strife?

Posted on December 31, 2013 

With Stephen Drew still floating out there on the free agent market, I wonder if the next labor fight in Major League Baseball is going to be over the draft pick compensation teams get for players who decline a contract tender offer.

Like former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse the year before, Drew is having a hard time finding a new contract because teams seem reluctant to give away a high draft pick in order to sign a guy who is a veteran talent.

The Redbirds shocked a lot of folks by reaching over Drew, considered by most to be the best shortstop on the free agent, to sign Jhonny Peralta, a player who did not get an tender offer.

Drew turned down what would have been a guaranteed $14.1 million contract because he thought he could get a nine-figure deal on the open market, according to several reports. Now it looks as if he might be fortunate to get a one-year deal for the price of the tender.

The New York Mets have been sniffing around. But they're a rebuilding team with financial issues that can probably ill afford to give up a draft pick. The Red Sox are luke warm to bringing back Drew because they could play younger infielder Xander Boegarts.

It was speculated when the Cardinals lost Lohse, coming off a 16-3 season with a 2.83 ERA, that he could command up to $60 million over four years when he hit free agency. But he ended up getting a little bit more than half of that amount over three seasons because of the draft pick tie.

From a fan's perspective, I'm sure the answer is simple: Take the tender offer and get a huge payday only to hit free agency the following season. But why would a player -- especially one who missed significant time earlier in his career due to a broken leg -- want to accept a one-year deal when he could otherwise command a guaranteed, multi-year contract?

The wild card in the case of Lohse and Drew could be that their agent is Scott Boras, a guy who has gained a reputation as a hard bargainer. Maybe teams just don't want to cave in to a guy that has been a thorn in their side in the past. But, usually, talent triumphs any rational thought when it comes to free agent baseball players. So I doubt it.

Maybe the sides can come to a compromise and make a deal that says players can only be tendered once and then they have to be allowed to hit the open market so they can't be compelled to work on a series of one-year deals. But I think the players have demonstrated in the past that they're not a patient or reasonable lot. So I'm sure they're prime target is going to be getting rid of the one thing that has reeled back in some of the free spending.

 

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