TAMPA, Fla. — While Major League Baseball may not be the premier sport in America, you wouldn’t know that based on the amount of money being paid out thus far in the offseason. But trouble looms on the horizon for MLB at midnight Thursday.
So far this offseason, MLB teams have spent more than $2 billion in fully guaranteed contracts for some of the top players in the sport. The Tampa Bay Rays, typically owners of one of the lowest payrolls in baseball even got in on the spending spree when they signed Wander Franco to an expensive contract extension, part of a $200 million spending spree.
But Franco’s deal, reportedly for 11-years and $182 million, is not the most expensive contract signed thus far and may not even come close when all is said and done.
As of Tuesday evening, the Texas Rangers have spent the most money thus far, $561 million on four players. The richest contract the Rangers handed out was a 10-year, $325 million contract for Corey Seager. The Rangers also gave Marcus Semien a 7-year, $175 million deal and Jon Gray a 4-year, $56 million contract.
Following closely behind the Rangers are the New York Mets. The secondary team in New York has spent $254.5 million on contracts thus far with the crown jewel being a 3-year, $130 million contract for pitcher Max Scherzer. They are followed closely by the Toronto Blue Jays who have spent $252 million this offseason and the Detroit Tigers who have given out $217 million thus far.
All of the spending before the end of November doesn’t even include the top overall free agent this offseason, former Houston Astros slugger Carlos Correa. He is expected to command a contract of more than $300 million which will make him the 10th player in Major League Baseball to sign a $300 million-plus contract, according to MLB.com.
So, some players are getting paid this offseason. That’s the good news.
The bad news is at 11:59 Wednesday night, if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been agreed to by both sides, the owners will institute a lockout. While it won’t mean much at the current time, it will halt free agency and any other offseason activity from moving forward, which could leave a player like Correa left in limbo.
As is usually the case, the lockout will be over money and how it’s distributed to each side. The exact parameters are unknown, but CBSSports.com reported the gap between the two sides is quite large. The MLB Players Union is also looking to increase pay for younger players and fight tanking, which teams have seemed to do for years in baseball.
The lockout will end MLB’s relative labor peace that’s been in place since the 1994-1995 strike that canceled the World Series. Three other lockouts occurred in 1973, 1976, and 1990, but no games were missed. What happens this time if the lockout begins, remains to be seen.