The winter meetings produced a surprisingly robust market for players. $7.5 million for Brad Penny, whom the Red Sox released last August? $15 million for Brandon Lyon, who will never be confused with Mariano Rivera?
The Players Association can't possibly be thinking of collusion this offseason, right?
Not so fast.
In light of the last couple of winters, which have featured some eyebrow-raising events in the open market, the union asked the player agents - at the outset of this offseason - to keep all of its notes regarding free-agent negotiations, a person in the loop said. The union wants as much information as it can get for a possible collusion suit.
Myriad issues have arisen for the Players Association in recent years. Two offseasons ago, the complete lack of interest in signing Barry Bonds spurred a potential suit; that remains on hold until Bonds' legal issues are resolved. Last year, the fact that Manny Ramirez didn't generate more heat set off alarm bells.
This offseason? Those contracts are player-friendly, but one complaint recurs that teams are making identical offers, with little to no variance, to the same player. How is it, in other words, that all of the teams value the same player identically?
That criticism sparked a grievance from the 2002-03 offseason. And although the owners never admitted any guilt, baseball did reportedly pay the union $12 million out of its luxury-tax fund.