Baseball’s annual Hot Stove season has gone cold, frozen by a lockout that has ended all communication between teams and players until the two sides come to a resolution and sign the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
There has been, essentially, no movement on the CBA negotiations front since the lockout went into effect in early December, so it’s hard to guess when that resolution might arrive. When it does, though, there are lots of players who still need new teams and lots of teams that need new players.
There are big names — hi, Carlos Correa! — and plenty of guys on the other end of the spectrum. We might see a few immediate signings; remember, there were lots of pre-lockout talks and negotiations that didn’t result in a signing before the deadline.
What about trades, though?
After all, front-office decision-makers can’t talk with players, but they can talk with other front-office decision-makers about potential trades, right? So we should expect a flurry of moves — like the A’s dealing away most of their rotation and middle-of-the-lineup hitters Matt Olson and Matt Chapman — the moment the lockout ends and MLB.com flips the switch to bring back player roster profile pictures, right?
From a source in the commissioner’s office: “Clubs are not permitted to discuss potential trades during the work stoppage.”
So much for hopes of a flurry of trades announced in the first hour after the lockout ends.
Every club knows the restriction; they were provided with the rules that are effective during a lockout, and that includes not just the prohibition of player transactions, but prohibition on discussions related to player transactions.
Per the source, this is a new rule: “It’s a product of the current work stoppage. We hadn’t had a work stoppage since 1995. Major League transactions are essentially frozen because of it. We are enforcing these rules just as we enforce all of our rules/policies.”
It doesn’t mean we won’t see any trades announced soon after the lockout ends. Just like teams talked with free-agent players and their agents before the Dec. 2 lockout started, front-office types talked with other front-office types about potential trades. It’s possible some of those discussions got to the point where all that was remaining was to finish the paperwork and schedule physicals, and those could be completed quickly. And the groundwork that was laid back then could quickly turn into a deal with a few phone conversations, after both sides had many, many weeks to mull over the discussions.
It’s also possible that there are unofficial conversations that happen. Maybe. Who knows? It’s fun to imagine, for example, Oakland front-office types talking in code, something like this … “Did you hear a story about three prospect(ors) who went out West looking for gold but all they found was a reliable Bassitt hound?”
That would be amusing.
So what happens if the rule is broken? From the source: “We do not anticipate a need to issue reminders.”
Anyway, I guess the takeaway is this: There will be trades after the lockout ends, just maybe not a bunch of them announced immediately after the new CBA agreement is reached.