Giants Talk

Giants' Slater explains MLBPA free-agent signing deadline objections

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the J.D. Davis situation took an unusual turn over the weekend, the most sought-after player in the clubhouse might have been the longest-tenured Giant. 

Austin Slater long has been the Giants' player representative for the MLB Players Association, and he now has a role on the MLBPA executive subcommittee as a pension committee representative.

Slater, a Stanford alum and the grandson of the former mayor of Jacksonville, is one of just eight veterans with an elevated role in the MLBPA, and he has always been happy to serve as a resource for teammates who might have questions about contracts, player rights or impending labor issues. 

If Slater still is in a similar role the next time the CBA is negotiated, he might spend much of his time digging into an issue that impacted Davis.

The third baseman was harmed by the slow pace of the free-agent market, with Matt Chapman signing after Davis had already won an arbitration hearing, which ultimately led to the Giants releasing him and saving about $5 million on what most -- even in the Giants clubhouse -- had assumed was a guaranteed contract. 

Davis' situation was somewhat unique, but Chapman wasn't the only marquee free agent who was still on the market when camps started. Cody Bellinger signed a similar short-term deal a few days earlier and Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remain unsigned. That's the top tier, but there are plenty of others -- like J.D. Martinez and Brandon Belt -- who are still looking for 2024 homes. 

It seems that the sport would benefit from deadlines in the offseason, which might lead to more deals and allow for more exciting flurries for fans. There's been plenty of talk within the industry about having some sort of deadline set up in December, with plenty remembering the run of activity before the lockout in 2021. In those final days, the Giants signed Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Alex Cobb to fill out their rotation before the offseason got shut down. 

The MLBPA would fight against any offseason with deadlines, and on Thursday's "Giants Talk," Slater made a compelling argument for why a pause in the offseason would harm players.

"It starts with, the teams have six years of control (over players), and then you would have to tell a guy, 'Hey, you have to sign in this certain time frame,'" Slater said. "You could see how some things might get manipulated, like 'take it or leave it' type of offers and guys might not get paid what they're actually worth. Trying to compare it to the NBA or the NFL where there are capped systems and teams have to spend a certain amount of money and they can't exceed a certain amount of money, yeah, every team is going to out and sign very quickly to mark those numbers. 

"But when teams don't have a bottom or a top, they might not offer a guy what he's actually worth."

As the Davis situation was unfolding, the NFL experienced a couple wild days at the start of free agency. The NBA does the same every summer, but it seems unlikely that MLB will have a similar system anytime soon. 

Slater said someone asked him recently about what it would take to have deadlines. The response was easy: A salary floor that would force teams to spend a certain amount. That's something the NFL and NBA both have. In Major League Baseball, teams currently range from about $44 million (the Oakland A's) to $290 million (the New York Yankees). 

"Would that ever happen? I don't think so," Slater said of MLB agreeing to a floor. "If they want to ask us for something like (offseason deadlines), I think the only fair compromise would be to say, 'Hey, the Oakland A's have to actually spend over $40 million.' Something like that seems reasonable.

"I think it's unfortunate it's coming down on a lot of players, like, 'Hey, why don't these guys sign?' We're not privy to the conversations and what's going on. It's happened once or twice in the past maybe like six, seven years where something like this has happened drawing into spring training. It's unfortunate that it's slowing down even the middle tier of the market because you want to get guys into camp that are going to be on teams."

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