Both Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone have used the same phrase — and they’re hardly alone in this regard in the game — in describing their offseason mindsets.
"Right now, it's business as usual," Boone said last week at the Stadium.
That is expected to change across the sport Wednesday, the deadline for Major League Baseball and the Players Association to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
If a new deal isn’t reached by Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. — and neither side could be described as optimistic that one will be — the overwhelming expectation is that the owners will institute a lockout on Thursday, which will freeze all activity until there is an agreement.
That means, among other things, no free-agent signings, no trades that involve any player on a club’s 40-man roster and no players, including those rehabbing injuries, being allowed to work out at team facilities.
The widespread industry expectation has been for a bevy of activity in advance of Wednesday. As of Saturday, that wasn’t the case yet with the Yankees, but it certainly was for the Mets.
Both New York clubs are expected to have busy offseasons, and the Mets honored that with a Black Friday splurge that netted them Eduardo Escobar (two years, $20 million), Mark Canha (two years, $26.5 million) and Starling Marte (four years, $78 million). The Mets still are in the mix for Javier Baez, and they are looking to add multiple starting pitchers and perhaps a reliever or two.
The club’s Friday flurry helped change the narrative of the Mets’ offseason, which started inauspiciously when three players they thought might be a part of their 2022 plans — Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Loup and Steven Matz — signed elsewhere (Syndergaard and Loup reached agreements with the Angels, and Matz joined the Cardinals).
The Yankees have just as busy an offseason ahead. They have needs at shortstop, first base, the outfield and in their rotation (adding a bullpen arm can’t be ruled out either). They’ve come out of the gate slowly, though, as Wednesday’s deadline looms.
Even commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking Nov. 18 at the owners’ meetings in Chicago, seemed resigned to that kind of stoppage, though he didn’t talk about a lockout in dire terms.
"Honestly, I can’t believe there’s a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games," Manfred said.
MLB isn’t close — not yet, anyway — to the kind of work stoppage that would cost it regular-season games for the first time since the strike/lockout of 1994-95. But a lockout will deprive the sport of the much-needed winter excitement the Hot Stove League provides, the mostly positive attention that comes with a myriad of player transactions.
"They’ll obviously come to a resolution at some point," Cashman said Nov. 11 in Carlsbad, California, before departing the general managers' meetings. "[They’ll] find common ground; they’ve always done it in the past, mostly. So at some point, optimistic they’ll do that again. Otherwise, I just do what I gotta do."
A couple of days earlier, Cashman said of a prospective stoppage and how it could impact him: ""I can’t really answer that question, so it’s business as usual. We’re going through our conversations thus far under the current agreement, and if it changes, we’ll adjust to those changes."
Speaking last week at the Stadium, Boone, a former union representative from his playing days with the Reds, described his feelings on a possible work stoppage.
"It would be awful," he said. "You never want to see that."
Boone, entering his fifth season as Yankees manager after signing a three-year extension in October, continued: "Right now, we’re in the offseason, so I don’t think we’ll necessarily feel the effects [of a stoppage] until we get past the New Year and start getting ready and planning for spring training . . . I don’t think anyone wants to see that [a stoppage of any kind] and hopefully, when all is said and done, the sides can come together and make a deal everyone can live with."