I will be honest: I am surprised the owners agreed to a deal. I was convinced the owners would hold out for every last penny, and I was also sure the players would not cave and try to break the owners. They both wound up compromising, with the owners receiving a much better deal than the players. The result of poor negotiations the past decade, which left players with little leverage over the owners. The economics of the deal fascinate me to a degree, but the most important change levied by the new CBA revolves around the postseason. Once again baseball will expand the playoffs, this time from 10 teams to 12. This change, more than the others, is probably the most 'exciting' news Cleveland fans will receive this offseason.
According to this neat article from Fangraphs: Cleveland's chances to make the playoffs increases about 5% in the new system. This is good! This means the odds of October baseball returning to The Jake this year gets a slight bump, although interestingly our World Series do not change. This is likely the best change in the offseason for Cleveland: the chance to compete in the postseason even if the team does not meaningfully improves. It allows plucky teams like Cleveland to have a mildly better shot each year to sneak into the postseason and get more bang for their buck during their 'windows' of contention.
Despite this I still find myself feeling a collective shrug.
It's good Cleveland's playoff chances increase, and I do think this system better rewards teams like Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Oakland who consistently compete and avoid tanking. But I also feel like the team will find itself coasting even more: why invest in the offseason when you can wait until the deadline and examine how your low cost team is doing and re-evaluate? Why try to become a division winner when the value in it is so low? What is good for Cleveland's playoff chances may make it even more likely the team sees less incentive to invest in its stars and keep them long term.
Overall it feels like the Guardians picked the worst time to rebrand in baseball history. They announced the change during a middling season where the team failed to post a winning record for the first time since 2012. They put little effort into selling it (the new sign literally fell off the day they opened the team shop, and their new sign at Progressive Field was pitifully off center). Then the owners locked the players out and we've waited three months to even see what the new uniforms look like. It's March and nobody really has any clue what direction this club will take. Will the Dolans finally invest money into the team, as they promised they would? Will the Guardians reverse a franchise trend from the past three decades and actually retain a star player? Or will the Guardians wind up being just like the Indians, with a less controversial name?
Right now it feels like the latter. The front office is a good one, but one thing they are known for is keeping their cards close to their chest. That's not a bad strategy most offseasons: but this one it has left the fan base bereft of any inkling how this team will address our glaring needs for 2022. Now with the season opener about a month away they have to quickly adjust and try to drive some excitement for a season which does not appear particularly exciting (unless you are among the most die hard of fans).
Additionally, I do not think waiting until the big fish move and then bargain hunting will serve this team well. The Cavaliers are good, for the first time in a long time, and the Browns remain the Browns. The Guardians need to do something to feel relevant in the Cleveland sports landscape. This team is now at a cross roads. It finally bit the bullet and changed the name, which gave it an opportunity to rebrand itself with the fanbase. They have squandered that opportunity thus far, and now they have little time to change that perception before Opening Day hits us, which kicks the can down the road for another season.