By Stephen Foster ’22
The 2021-2022 Major League Baseball offseason is off to a hot start with unpredictable free agency moves and trades. Some teams struck gold with new talent, meaning other teams lost their stars and will need to find ways to fill their roster with equal or better talent. However, the biggest story to date is the first MLB lockout and labor stoppage since the player strike in 1994.
When Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 2, team owners voted to enter a lockout due to failure to reach a new deal with players. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, is the agreement between the MLB Players Association and Major League Baseball which determines the rules of employment and the financial structure of the game. The lockout caused by the failure to agree on a new CBA results in the temporary halt of all transactions until a new agreement is finalized and agreed upon by both parties.
The MLB Players Union believes that the lockout was caused unnecessarily by team owners. They released a statement on Twitter saying, “This shutdown is a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing. It is not required by law or for any other reason. It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just Players, but the game and industry as a whole.” On the other hand, commissioner Rob Manfred emphasized that the lockout is necessary in order to avoid missing time once the season begins because of the failed agreement. Regardless of whether it is necessary, the lockout is happening and will stop MLB transactions, including Free Agency, until a new agreement is reached.
Even with the pause, MLB teams have been working hard to improve their rosters for the 2021-2022 season. Some of the most substantial moves so far have the possibility to completely turn a losing team from 2020-2021 into an instant competitor.
The biggest example seems to be the Texas Rangers, the most unexpected story in the offseason. After trading away top players like 2021 Gold Glove-winning outfielder Joey Gallo at the trade deadline, the Rangers have spent more than a half-billion dollars in the few weeks since the Free Agency period began. This money has gone towards a ten-year, $325 million deal with shortstop Corey Seager, a seven-year, $175 million contract with second base/shortstop Marcus Semien, and a four-year, $56 million deal with starting pitcher John Gray.
Although these moves promise to improve the Texas Rangers, the jury is still out on whether they can fix their 2021 record of 60 wins and 102 losses. Their record last season left them in last place in the AL West, a whole 17 games behind the next worst team in the division. I predict that the Rangers will not be able to do any damage in the AL West for several years due to their abundant weaknesses across the board, everywhere except middle infield. However, these contracts are long enough that they should still be around once Texas’ top prospects are called up in a few years, including infielder Josh Jung. The question is, will Seager and Semien still be top players by the time Texas is ready to make a push for the World Series? Baseball fans will have to wait and see.