Baccellieri: Speak now: MLB’s quiet free agency has made players louder than ever

From Emma Baccellieri at Sports Illustrated on February 7, 2019:

With free agency plodding along, MLB’s hot stove needed an alternative fuel to stay warm this winter. Its replacement? A heated discussion about the game’s labor environment. The kindling should be familiar by now: For a second consecutive year, top free agents remain unsigned in February with under a month before players report to spring training. Among the players who have signed, few have inked multi-year contracts. The median player salary has dropped over the last few seasons despite record league revenue.

There’s been ample debate over whether the system is broken or not, but it’s hard to deny that it is very different. Much of the resulting conversation remains on what players might have lost over the last few years—namely, consistent expectations for a compensation system that has long been built on free agency. But there’s also something that they’ve gained, however different in scale and scope—the ability to drive public conversation about the situation on social media, which has the potential to make this far different from baseball’s past labor conflicts.

Over the past month, a slew of players have spoken out about free agency on Twitter and Instagram. This may seem unremarkable, but compare it to the previous public discourse on baseball’s labor issues and it seems noteworthy, maybe even a bit radical.

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Originally published: February 11, 2019. Last Updated: February 11, 2019.