Hot stove: Mets, Yankees, Lockout Looming


Here we go as the owners and players race to beat the deadline of an expiring collective bargaining agreement. This November, the hot stove is quite different because the positioning of free agents and any potential trades will be impacted by an impending lockdown imposed by management.

So Monday was the beginning of a potential movement of players after baseball’s GM’s conducted their annual meeting last week. The annual winter meetings, set for the week of December 4 in Orlando, Fla. are in jeopardy, at a time when a flurry of business and player movements take place.

But a reliable source, with inside information on the labor front, informs me to cancel those travel plans for Orlando which would say all business for baseball will come to a halt in a few weeks as the clock ticks.

The Yankees and Mets both have important needs to fill, and both teams appear to be headed for a probable bidding war with some of the upper tier free agents on the market.

First and foremost, though, the Mets need to put a front office together and the hiring of a new manager. Any significant moves with the Mets will come then.

Late Monday afternoon, numerous reports say  former Angels GM Billy Eppler is expected to sign a contract to become the Mets 15th GM.

There are so many needs for a Mets team that would like to begin the search for an outfielder with the expected departure of Michael Conforto, who declined the club’s qualifying offer.

The Mets lead baseball with 12 free agents, including a rotation arm in Marcus Stroman. So the new GM will have a task of putting together a roster to be competitive in 2022.

With two of the largest payrolls in baseball, it is expected the Yankees and Mets hierarchies will be spending tons of money, though with a CBA set to expire, all of this could be put on hold until one is negotiated.

Simple, the salary structures of teams and the game itself will change with a new CBA in place. The war will be millionaires vs. billionaires and baseball fans don’t want to buy that nonsense. Then again, baseball, as with all sports, is more about business and not the game.

So if a lockout does occur, and my expectations are that it will happen and baseball will cease operations, this should be an interesting two weeks as we head to the deadline. And this could be a nasty lockout that baseball can’t afford to last long.

If the labor war goes beyond January, it’s possible February spring training camps are delayed. There is always a possibility the 2022 season is put on hold. More so, all the rumors and potential movement of players will be put on hold and could lead to chaos.

If the impasse moves into February, and that’s possible with a wide financial gap separating management and players, free agent signings or trades could see a frenzy of unprecedented transactions that baseball and fans have never seen once a new CBA is in place.

Monday, the World Series champion Braves signed Manny Pina to a two-year contract worth $8 million. Pina is a 24- year old backup catcher, who hit a career-best 13 home runs in 75 games. This could provide some insight into where this is going before the CBA deadline.

The main priority is the Braves holding on to Freddie Freeman and at what cost? The Yankees, as I hear from numerous sources, are making a run at Freeman.

I find it difficult to believe the Braves don’t retain their franchise player, who helped them win their first World Series championship in 27 years

Free agent Anthony Rizzo could re-sign with the Yankees. GM Brian Cashman and management will trt and execute their off season game plan and that could involve trading Luke Voit.

I also expect the Yankees to be active buyers in that free agent bonanza of shortstops, while also looking to shore up their starting rotation after Gerrit Cole. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman has reported that Cashman has met with the reps for Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Trevor Story.

I would also not rule out Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres as trade pieces for other teams. The Yankees have lost their patience with Sanchez, though there would need to be a contingency plan and that is not feasible. Torres is always the subject of trade talk and the Yankees would want something very good in return.

A trade for A’s Gold Glove winning first baseman Matt Olsen is on the Yanks radar. Olsen, a left-handed hitter, has two years of team control remaining and potentially fits into the Yankees salary structure of a new CBA.

The luxury tax, and something I still can’t get a grip on, will determine a lot. Another reason why there is a race to that deadline of a new CBA.

Free agent Javier Baez could go across town, though the Mets are in that fray also, and that adds to what would be an intriguing bidding war of deep pocket Mets’ owner Steve Cohen against the Yankees Hal Steinbrenner.

You can bet on Francisco Lindor having an impact on Baez possibly staying in Flushing with a nice contract. Again, all of this is contingent on the specifics of the new CBA.

I have been wrong with a lot of this, but you’ll recall that I was the first to report here on a few years ago that the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes to a lucrative deal .

Then, the logistics of baseball economics was complicated. And those logistics are even more difficult to comprehend as agents go to work and seek the highest bidder at a lucrative price for their players.

Stay tuned because this will certainly get more interesting before December 1.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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