MLBPA chief Tony Clark not worried about his job as free agent spring camp opens

On Wednesday, the MLB Players Association-run spring training camp for free agents held their first workout in Florida. Union head Tony Clark told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that "upwards of about 30" players were attendance.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale has a partial list of players attending the free agent camp:

This is where you'll find veteran relievers Tyler Clippard and Tom Gorzelanny, who have combined for 23 years in the big leagues, still looking for work. This is where veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has played for seven major league teams, and won a World Series title with the 2013 Boston Red Sox, is still seeking employment. This is where veteran outfielders Nolan Reimold and Alejandro de Aza were hitting and playing catch, with veteran infielder Chris Johnson and 11-year pitcher Donovan Hand here, too.  

The MLBPA is of course running a spring training camp this year because an unprecedented number of free agents remain unsigned as teams open their spring camps across Arizona and Florida. Twenty-one of our top 50 free agents are unsigned, including six of the top 10. For the most part, teams were unwilling to spend money this winter.

The union and the players have themselves to blame more than anyone. They agreed to the current collective bargaining agreement, which created what amounts to a salary cap by agreeing to stiff luxury tax penalties, and encourages teams to rebuild. None of that is conducive to spending.

Because of that, there has been some speculation the MLBPA could look to move on from Clark, who headed up negotiations for the current collective bargaining agreement last offseason. Clark told Shaikin he's not worried about his job security right now, however.

"My concern is only the players," he said. "I have had a number of conversations with players and agents. That dialogue has been focused on how to move us forward. To the extent players have concerns, we sit down and talk about those concerns.

"The players are the decision makers here. As I continue to have dialogue about the organization moving forward, I am as confident as ever with respect to what we have and where we are going, against the backdrop of what it is we are seeing."

The current collective bargaining agreement does not expire until December 2021, so there's not much the union can do to change the game's economic landscape right now. They have to live with the current deal, and unfortunately, that means many players remain unsigned at the moment. I get the sense this is the new normal. I don't think free agency is going back to normal (for lack of a better word) in the coming years, but we'll see.

MLB, meanwhile, has predictably started what amounts to a smear campaign against the free agent camp. A team executive tried to attend camp Wednesday and was denied entry, because the workouts are off-limits.

The free agent camp is not a tryout camp. It is a collection of players working out together in preparation for the season, and they are not obligated to allow teams to watch. As one union person told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, teams are free to contact individual players and arrange a private workout if they're interested in signing someone. Think about a player working out at the gym in the offseason. Do teams have a right to be there? No. Same with the free agent camp.

Given the recent war of words between MLB and the MLBPA, I suspect this will not be the last time the MLB does or says something intended to disparage the free agent camp. Anything that makes the players look greedy is a PR win for MLB.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for,,,... Full Bio

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