With lockout everything baseball, including Mariners’ buying spree, comes to a halt

Under normal circumstances – a situation that hasn’t been the case for over two years – most baseball professionals would travel to Orlando in preparation for the annual baseball winter meetings.

The four-day event has become the focal point of the baseball offseason where Major League Baseball can promote itself and its product while serving as the final forum for signings and free agent exchanges.

But not this year… yet.

After the 2020 meetings are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the MLB portion of the 2021 winter meetings will not take place.

With MLB owners officially locking out players after the collective agreement with the MLB Players Association expired on December 1, there was no reason MLB teams should make the trip to the country. from Disney.

So, after one of the most eventful and exciting weeks in the history of the baseball stove season, when more than $ 1 billion in guaranteed contracts were made with free agents, the offseason is coming to a halt. expected and unwanted shutdown.

And until the owners and players come to an agreement on a new CBA, all MLB activity is halted, including all transactions.

In an offseason where the Mariners were planning to be aggressive by adding top talent to a roster in an effort to end their playoff drought next season, there is nothing they can do with their ample salary budget. It’s as if they’ve won a shopping spree only to find the store is closed for the foreseeable future.

Teams cannot contact free agents, their respective agents, or their family members to try to negotiate potential contracts.

This means Jerry Dipoto’s quest to add more impact hitters, like free agents Kris Bryant and Trevor Story, to a lineup that has lost Kyle Seager will have to be put on hold. The Mariners also cannot continue their pursuit of Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki until the CBA is resolved. Its 30-day “release window” for teams to sign is delayed until an agreement is reached.

Teams also cannot engage in conversations with other teams about players and potential trades.

All trade negotiations with the As for third baseman Matt Chapman or right-hander Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas will be suspended as will any conversation with the Reds regarding the trade for veteran right-hander Sonny Gray.

In addition, all team employees, including Dipoto and coaching staff and player development coaches, are not permitted to contact any player from the organization on the 40 player roster or even to discuss it with the media.

So while Dipoto enjoys talking about Julio Rodriguez’s growth or the importance of adding southpaw Robbie Ray to the Mariners’ rotation, he can’t say anything about it publicly. Sources have said that any contact with a player – intentional or not – between a team employee and a player should be labeled for consideration by the MLB.

That’s why MLB.com, which is owned by Major League Baseball, offered this note on its upcoming coverage:

“You may notice that the content on this site is a little different than usual. The reason is that the collective agreement between the players and the league expired just before midnight on December 1 and that a new collective agreement is currently being negotiated between the owners and the MLBPA.

“Until a new deal is made, there will be limitations on the type of content we post. As a result, you’ll see a lot more content focused on the game’s rich history. Once a new deal is struck, the late-breaking news and analysis you’d expect will continue as usual.

Fans looking for a baseball blanket during the winter months won’t get the usual hot stove speculation and signatures, but rather an analysis of the players and the roster.

From a development and improvement standpoint, the players on the 40-man roster are on their own in terms of conditioning and off-season training. For example, JP Crawford, who lives in Phoenix, cannot follow his normal routine of going to the team’s spring training facility in Peoria to train with coaches and trainers. This means that Evan White, who is now fully recovered from hip surgery, is not permitted to use Arizona facilities or seek in-person advice from medical staff and performance coaches at the team as he tries to regain his full strength.

Marco Gonzales, who is the team’s union representative, cannot make it to T-Mobile Park for off-season practice and the pitching regime despite his life in West Seattle.

But there is a large group of players who prefer to train in private facilities with their personal trainers and coaches during the offseason. Jarred Kelenic’s family has a facility in Wisconsin while Rodriguez trains with players in Tampa. Kyle Lewis, who is recovering from knee surgery, has chosen to train with specific therapists and coaches in Atlanta.

However, the lockout does not affect minor league players who are not on the 40-player roster. That means the Mariners’ prized pitching hopefuls George Kirby and Emerson Hancock can still make it to the facility to practice and pitch during the offseason. The Mariners plan to have off-season minicamps at the facility for their best prospects as well as their usual “gas camp” to build up arm strength. These young players will fully benefit from the resources of the organization during the lockout.

And if the Major League season were to be delayed, which both sides want to avoid, the minor league seasons for Mariners affiliates – Class AAA Tacoma, Class AA Arkansas, High-A Everett, and Low-A Modesto – will come together. would proceed as planned. .

According to sources, the team plans to continue meetings within the organization on talent acquisition during the offseason, wanting to be ready when a CBA is finally agreed and the deal freeze is lifted. The Mariners want to be ready for another free agent signing frenzy, especially if it comes in the final days leading up to spring training.

The Mariners also plan to self-track all of their own players through the use of video and data programs while pushing staff training in new areas of baseball, including technology and data systems and research, while reviewing all of their current programs for effectiveness and efficiency.

There is no deadline set for a deal to be made and spring training and the season to begin on time. But the prevailing idea in baseball is that it would be essential to have an agreement by the first week of February to allow teams to resume building their roster and allow players to be ready to show up. in spring training in mid-February.

Most teams, including the Mariners, will try to use these next lockdown weeks / months productively to address issues that might otherwise not be a priority.

Meanwhile, fans can only sit back and wait.

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