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Sources: Players, teams digging in for protracted standoff despite Lorenzo Cain’s $80 million deal

Sources: Players, teams digging in for protracted standoff despite Lorenzo Cain’s $80 million deal

Do not mistake Lorenzo Cain’s five-year, $80 million free-agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for some great thaw in this most frozen of baseball winters. As February fast approaches, as spring training dawns, as multiple full teams’ worth of players remain jobless, frustration on the players’ side is growing, entrenchment on the teams’ side is intensifying and a neither party seems particularly inclined to blink.

The game buzzed Thursday night about the Brewers’ daring set of plays, which included their signing of Cain, acquisition of outfielder Christian Yelich from Miami for four prospects and pursuit of a trade for a starting pitcher using their outfield surplus. Temporarily it distracted from a reality that grows more stark by the day: The players, as engaged as they’ve been in economic matters in more than a decade – maybe more than any time since 1994 – are encouraging one another to stand firm amid teams’ efforts to remake the free agent market, sources familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports.

Players believe the value dispute between the sides will last long enough that a number have discussed the possibility of staging a free agent training camp to mimic their typical spring work, according to sources. Others already are making workout plans independent of a possible camp. The players have coalesced around not just a depressed free agent market but anger over Major League Baseball’s proposed implementation of new pace-of-play rules about which a significant number of players have voiced their concern.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark met with commissioner Rob Manfred and deputy commissioner Dan Halem earlier this week to discuss pace of play, according to sources. Negotiating against the backdrop of the free agent market has complicated the possibility of a deal, sources said. Players continue to swap stories of their free agent experiences, which circulate among their peers in phone calls and on text chains that capture their dissatisfaction.

Some cry collusion, though no clear evidence to support that has manifested itself yet. Others fear clubs’ tactics are going to wipe out baseball’s so-called middle class. And others still hold themselves and the union culpable for not recognizing the owners’ willingness to weaponize the luxury-tax threshold and use it as a soft salary cap.

All of it is manifesting itself in ways executives, players and agents admit they’ve never seen. The dialogue between teams and the top players available has slowed to a crawl, according to sources. Over the past week, sources said, teams have re-engaged a significant number of middle-tier free agents – in some cases with a most unusual approach.

 eactid=”42″>“They keep asking me, ‘What’s it going to tak

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