LOS ANGELES — The New York Mets committed $130 million to pitcher Max Scherzer, who will be 40 when his new contract ends. The Tampa Bay Rays committed $182 million to shortstop Wander Franco, who is 20 and has played 70 major league games.
The Angels committed $21 million to pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who has pitched two innings over the last two seasons.
In a 24-hour span through Monday afternoon, the Texas Rangers committed $561 million to four players, more than half of that to now-former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. In the month before major league owners are widely expected to lock out their players, the owners have committed close to $2 billion in player contracts.
This is not a picture of a business in financial distress.
Yet, with baseball's collective bargaining agreement set to expire Wednesday, owners could shut down the sport as soon as Wednesday night. Questions and answers about the lockout that would end baseball's streak of labor peace at 26 years:
A shopping spree Monday and a lockout Wednesday? What in the name of Rob Manfred is going on here?
The optics are confusing, but the reality is not. That $2 billion in contracts was awarded to enough players to fill the roster of one of the 30 major league teams. The players' union has argued for years that the compensation system in baseball needs radical reform, and employers in America generally believe significant change is best addressed in a new collective bargaining agreement, not by tearing up a previously negotiated agreement. This is the time to negotiate a new agreement.
Do the owners have to impose a lockout once the collective bargaining agreement expires?
No. In any industry, when a collective bargaining agreement runs out, management and workers can continue to abide by the terms of the old agreement while negotiating a new one.
So why the lockout?