VIERA, Fla. — Ian Desmond is not the only player whose free agency suffered because of the qualifying offer system, but his case is the most glaring of this offseason. Its recent resolution left him with a deal far less lucrative than anyone could have imagined (one year, $8 million) to play a position he has never played before. Major League Baseball Players Association chief Tony Clark called Desmond’s situation, quite clearly the product of a larger, systemic issue, “disheartening.”
“It is disheartening to think that a player of Ian’s caliber would have a difficult time finding a job. I don’t think it’s good for the industry on any level to have players of that caliber, both on and off the field, having a difficult time finding a job,” Clark said. “I’m going to admit it: I’ve always enjoyed Ian, watching him play. I think he’s one of the best players in the game. So to watch his course of action on how things played out this offseason, to say it was disappointing is an understatement.”
Clark said that when baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires after a season, as it does this year, dialogue between the MLBPA and the owners historically begins around this time of year. When it does, he hopes both sides can agree on the issues with the qualifying offer system, and the draft pick compensation that led so many teams to shy away from top talent.
“I think any time you sit down at the table and you realize that there are pieces of a system in place that are detrimental to both player and club, it’s worthy of more dialogue,” Clark said. “So if the player finds himself having challenges and there are clubs that are wanting to make decisions with regards to their roster, but because of the system in place, they’re having a tough time making the decision about how to do certain things, that brings everybody to the table to see how you can make it better. I would anticipate that happening.”
Clark said Michael Weiner, the beloved former executive director of the MLBPA, told him that “labor peace” was never the goal in bargaining; a “fair and equitable deal” is the goal.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to find common ground on a fair and equitable deal here,” Clark said.
“The guys are prepared. The guys have an idea about what’s going on and the issues that are part of the discussion. We are effectively positioned to have a conversation that will give us an opportunity to have a deal done as of December 1 of this year. But we’ll have to wait and see.”