The letdown will be palpable not just for Mariners fans but for all fans in Major League Baseball.
The last four frenzied days of free-agent signings, amounting of more than $1 billion in guaranteed salary have energized an offseason despite the dark clouds of the expiring collective-bargaining agreement (at 8:59 p.m. PT Wednesday) and expectation of the owners locking out the players.
“Adding our league’s reigning Cy Young Award winner is exciting,” said Jerry Dipoto, M’s president of baseball operations in a news release. “He’s a high character person, as well as one of the preeminent strikeout pitchers in the game. Robbie brings real presence to the front of our rotation.”
“Robbie pitched against us twice last season,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He has that dominating mound presence, paired with the kind of electric stuff you would expect from a Cy Young winner. You can feel it from the dugout. He really controls the game when he’s on the mound. His intensity is a great fit for our pitching staff and our ballclub as a whole.”
The official announcement came after Ray traveled to Seattle, took and passed the team’s extensive physical. The Mariners are expected to hold a news conference with Ray and Dipoto at T-Mobile Park on Wednesday morning.
Well, Dipoto’s oft-stated goal of adding at least one impact hitter to a lineup that is now without Kyle Seager and wasn’t that productive with him in it will be put on hold.
During a lockout, team officials cannot sign MLB players to contracts, make trades for MLB players or even have contact with them.
So while the Mariners can discuss ways to sign third baseman Kris Bryant or infielder Trevor Story or both, they can’t do anything about it until a CBA is reached and implemented. And it also delays the posting process of Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who the Mariners have interest in signing.
It’s difficult to believe that either Bryant or Story would accept less than the 6-year, $140 million contract that Javy Baez agreed to with the Tigers.
Dipoto would also like to add another established starting pitcher if possible to fill out the remaining spot in the rotation. While there is plenty of back-of-the-rotation pitchers available, right-hander Marcus Stroman is also still out on the market.
Will an extended wait drive up the asking price for the remaining high-level players? Will another team grow desperate over the next few months and grossly outbid others?
Failing to add at least one impact bat in the free-agent market means the Mariners would have to give up prospects to trade for a hitter — also when the lockout ends.
While both the owners and MLBPA have stated publicly in the past that any labor dispute that leads to missed games could have severe effects on MLB’s lagging popularity, the length of a lockout is unknown.
Will it be a month? Two? Will it cut into spring training similar to the 1995 season?
Per multiple reports, a group of MLB owners and a large contingent from the MLBPA met briefly — perhaps 30 minutes — on Tuesday morning in Dallas and the MLBPA offered a broad economic proposal. According to The New York Times, there was a second meeting later that afternoon with approximately 60 players in attendance that lasted around 30 minutes. That was followed by MLB’s lead negotiator Dan Halem and Rockies owner Dick Monfort, the chair of the MLB Labor committee, holding a sidebar meeting with Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s lead negotiator and veteran pitcher Andrew Miller that lasted 45 minutes.
The two sides are expected to meet again on Wednesday. And while a lockout isn’t mandatory without a CBA, there is little reason to believe that it can be avoided with the contention and distrust that has steadily built over the past few seasons.
The other professional leagues have all implemented lockouts in similar situations. It’s often viewed as negotiating tactic or tool.
“I can’t believe there’s a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games,” commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at the November owners meetings. “We understand, I understand, that time is becoming an issue.”
Due to the CBA’s expiration, MLB pushed up the deadline for teams to tender contracts to MLB players on the 40-man roster under club control or eligible for salary arbitration.
The Mariners tendered contracts to 33 players on the 40-man roster with Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen Ken Giles, Evan White already on MLB contracts. Two other players, catcher Jose Godoy and infielder Kevin Padlo, agreed to terms for the 2022 season.
Per a report, the Mariners avoided arbitration with right-handed reliever Casey Sadler, who is in his first year of salary arbitration. He will receive a $1.025 million salary in 2022.
Seattle’s remaining arbitration eligible players:
- Diego Castillo
- J.P. Crawford
- Adam Frazier
- Mitch Haniger
- Dylan Moore
- Tom Murphy
- Paul Sewald
- Drew Steckenrider
- Luis Torrens
The Mariners 40-man roster currently has 39 players with Ray being added to make 40.