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Carter Hawkins introduced as Chicago Cubs GM after 14 seasons with Cleveland Indians

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CHICAGO — Carter Hawkins was part of Cleveland’s front office when the Indians lost to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. He vividly remembers being on the team bus for the trip to the airport after Game 5.

“We’re just inching along, just barely going anywhere. There’s people everywhere,” Hawkins recalled, “and all I could hear was ‘Go Cubs Go’ over and over and over and over.”

Now he wants to sing along with those same fans in October.

The 37-year-old Hawkins was formally introduced as the Cubs’ new general manager on Monday, stepping into a position that had been open since Jed Hoyer was promoted to president of baseball operations almost a year ago.

Hoyer, who took over the top job after Theo Epstein stepped down, put off the GM search because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also wanted to empower the rest of his front office.

When he started to begin his search in earnest, he said Hawkins’ name came up repeatedly as he made calls around the league.

“As we started talking on the phone during this process and then as we moved to formal interviews, it became clear to me how he built such a sterling reputation,” Hoyer said. “He spoke with clarity and conviction about leadership, employee development, organizational alignment and team building.

“The breadth of our conversation was really remarkable and really showed his preparation for all aspects of the GM job today.”

The conversations between Hoyer and Hawkins included a dinner that lasted approximately five hours and watching this year’s AL Wild Card game — an experience Hawkins compared to the Manning brothers’ broadcast for Monday Night Football.

“It was very comfortable from the get-go,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins comes to Chicago after 14 seasons with Cleveland, including the last five as an assistant general manager. He also supervised the team’s player development department.

While the Cubs have struggled with developing their young pitchers, the Indians have flourished.

Cleveland ace Shane Bieber, a fourth-round pick in the 2016 amateur draft, won the AL Cy Young Award last year. Aaron Civale, a third-rounder in 2016, went 12-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts this season. Zach Plesac and Triston McKenzie also have had some positive moments.

“You’re not going to hire a GM based on a couple guys they’ve developed, but certainly their ability to develop pitching has been remarkable,” Hoyer said.

Hawkins played college baseball at Vanderbilt and started working for Cleveland in 2008 as an advance scouting intern. As he worked his way up with the Indians, general manager Mike Chernoff said Hawkins had a “huge impact” on their player development process.

“I think we’ve all seen in the game, the evolution of player development has been really, really fast and dynamic over the past 10 years,” Chernoff told the AP, “and Carter’s been able to help lead the group through that, especially with the more information and technology that we have now to kind of quantify development in ways that we couldn’t in the past.

“He’s helped to weave that into a system that was very much process-based, but not necessarily analytically based, and to tie that together with just great coaching.”

Chernoff called Hawkins “a really incredible solid person.”

“I mean that’s probably his greatest strength, is just the interpersonal relationships that he builds, the way that he can connect with a lot of different people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets and really bring people together,” Chernoff said.

Next up for Hawkins is helping Hoyer rebuild Chicago after it went 71-91 this season for the club’s worst record since it went 66-96 in 2013. It had a string of six consecutive winning seasons before faltering this year.

Longtime stars Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were traded away in July.

Pitching likely will be the team’s top priority over the winter. The Cubs had a 4.87 team ERA in 2021, ranking 27th in the majors.

“What Jed and Theo started to put together roughly 10 years ago today has raised the bar in Chicago for baseball to an incredibly high level,” Hawkins said. “The challenge is how do we raise it even further, and that is a difficult challenge, but one I’m eager to take on.”

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MLB, MLBPA fail to reach new labor agreement; league in 1st lockout since 1990

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IRVING, Texas — Major League Baseball locked out its players early Thursday morning, certifying the game’s first work stoppage in more than a quarter-century after months of talks yielded little progress toward a new labor contract.

The long-anticipated lockout, which the league told the players’ union it would initiate once the previous collective bargaining agreement expired after 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday, ends the transaction frenzy that led up to its imposition and sends the industry into a dark period with scant light in sight.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed disappointment in the lockout but said he believes it is “the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season.”

“Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired,” Manfred wrote in a prepared statement. “Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01am ET on December 2.”

During a lockout, which is a labor-relations tool used by management to keep employees from working until a deal is agreed upon, team officials and players cannot communicate in any way. Major league free agency and trades of players on 40-man rosters end immediately.

The major league portion of baseball’s winter meetings have been canceled, though they will continue on the minor league side.

In three days of bargaining this week, the union and league exchanged proposals that, like previous ones, left the other side nonplussed and illustrated the chasm between the parties. The final discussions between leaders from both sides Wednesday afternoon lasted seven minutes.

The MLBPA also issued a statement early Thursday morning, calling the lockout “a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing.”

“It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not Just Players, but the game and industry as a whole,” the MLBPA said in its statement. “These tactics are not new. We have been here before, and Players have risen to the occasion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations. We will do so again here.

“We remain determined to return to the field under the terms of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties, and provides fans with the best version of the game we all love.”

Labor peace had corresponded with immense growth in the game’s revenues since a players strike wiped out the 1994 World Series and lasted into 1995. Over the next 26 years, the union and league successfully negotiated five CBAs without a work stoppage after having eight in the previous 23 years.

Now, baseball faces its ninth work stoppage and fourth lockout (and first since 1990) without an obvious path toward a deal. Across the game, players, owners and executives were heartened by the days leading up to the lockout, in which teams lavished more than $1.4 billion in free-agent contracts on players. The deal-making did not replicate itself in the bargaining room at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas, where the league and union, continuing a trend from 2020, made little headway in talks.

Panic did not immediately accompany the decision to lock out. The next 90 or so days, sources said, will serve as a more realistic runway for a deal than the lead-up to the expiration of the agreement that covered the 2017 through 2021 seasons. The three previous lockouts did not result in any regular-season games missed, and if the league and union want the same to be the case in 2022, the latest they can strike a deal is early March.

The hope for an 11th-hour agreement faded quickly, according to sources. In a proposal Tuesday, the union held to its desire for players to reach free agency more quickly and for salary arbitration to come following a player’s second season rather than his third. It was part of a proposal that mirrored the union’s previous offers, which the league did not respond to in any of its proposals.

MLB’s previous proposal had done little to allay the union’s stated concerns over artificial restraints on free agency, tanking, paying players more earlier in their careers and service-time manipulation. The league did offer to remove direct draft-pick compensation — teams currently are penalized for signing top free agents — and suggested a draft lottery to disincentivize teams from tanking to get a higher draft position. The proposed lottery would cover only the top three picks. It also raised the competitive-balance-tax threshold past the current $210 million mark to $214 million, far shy of the $245 million the union most recently proposed.

The players did move toward MLB’s desire for an expanded postseason with a proposal to move from 10 teams to 12, though it fell short of the 14-team plan the league had proffered. While MLB is not fundamentally opposed to paying players earlier in their careers, its desire to do so while keeping salaries flat remains a problematic sticking point amid discussions that follow years of industry revenue growing and an average salary that stayed steady.

“We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” Manfred said in his statement. “This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”

More than 60 players gathered for the discussions helmed by Bruce Meyer, who the union hired as its chief negotiator following the fallout of the last agreement, and MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem. Other principals in the bargaining included the league’s labor-policy group, led by Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort, and the union’s executive sub-committee, with longtime reliever Andrew Miller participating alongside Meyer in smaller negotiating settings.

The tenor of the conversations mimicked that of contentious talks last year when the league and union tried to negotiate the shape of a season during the heart of the pandemic. Proposals from each side were wildly different and rarely moved, and instead of a negotiated settlement, Manfred imposed a 60-game season.

While the parties have managed to work well together on ancillary issues, divergent philosophies on the game’s core economics drove a wedge into negotiations that has barely moved. The parties have yet to find common ground, and the coming months, with spring training looming, are likelier to better illustrate where they can find it.

“Today is a difficult day for baseball, but as I have said all year, there is a path to a fair agreement, and we will find it,” Manfred said in his statement. “I do not doubt the League and the Players share a fundamental appreciation for this game and a commitment to its fans. I remain optimistic that both sides will seize the opportunity to work together to grow, protect, and strengthen the game we love. MLB is ready to work around the clock to meet that goal. I urge the Players Association to join us at the table.”

In the meantime, this is the closest recent lapse back into the ways of old baseball labor relations, in which the parties fought consistently, with work stoppages in 1972 (strike), 1973 (lockout), 1976 (lockout), 1980 (strike) and 1981 (strike). Time will tell if this era of labor portends something different.

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says union’s proposals would damage small-market teams

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Hours into Major League Baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years, commissioner Rob Manfred said the union’s proposal for greater free agency and wider salary arbitration would damage small-market teams.

Owners locked out players at 12:01 a.m. Thursday following the expiration of the sport’s five-year collective bargaining agreement.

Since 1976, players can become free agents after six seasons of major league service. The Major League Baseball Players Association proposed starting with the 2023-24 offseason that it changes to six years or five years and age 30.5, with the age in the second option dropping to 29.5 starting in 2025-26.

MLB would keep existing provision or change eligibility to age 29.5.

“We already have teams in smaller markets that struggle to compete,” Manfred said during a news conference at the Texas Rangers‘ ballpark, not far from the hotel where negotiations broke off. “Shortening the period of time that they can control players makes it even harder for them to compete. It’s also bad for fans in those markets. The most negative reaction we have is when a player leaves via free agency, We don’t see that — making it earlier, available easier — we don’t see that as a positive.”

Baseball is in its ninth work stoppage, threatening the start of spring training on Feb. 16 and Opening Day on March 31.

“The players’ association, as is their right, made an aggressive set of proposals in May, and they have refused to budge from the core of those proposals,” Manfred said. “Things like a shortened reserve period, a $100 million reduction in revenue sharing and salary arbitration for the whole two-year class are bad for the sport, bad for the fans and bad for competitive balance.”

An agreement by early-to-mid-March is needed for a full season.

“Speculating about drop-dead deadlines at this point, not productive,” Manfred said. “So I’m not going to do it.”

Union head Tony Clark planned a news conference for later Thursday.

Negotiations have made little to no progress since they began last spring. Manfred said a lockout was management’s only tool to speed the process.

“People need pressure sometimes to get to an agreement,” Manfred said. “Candidly, we didn’t feel that sense of pressure from the other side during the course of this week.”

In many ways, the core of the dispute is over the union’s desire to have more teams chasing players, leading to more competition on the field and higher salaries, and management’s desire to restrain salaries in an effort to prevent high-revenue teams from gaining an even greater percentage of stars.

“I’ve watched this game as an insider for more than three decades,” Manfred said. “I think that most people who understand the game realize that in our smaller markets, it’s a lot harder to win than it is in our bigger markets.”

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Los Angeles Dodgers, Chris Taylor agree to 4-year, $60 million deal, sources say

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The Los Angeles Dodgers reached agreement Wednesday with versatile All-Star Chris Taylor on a four-year, $60 million deal that includes a club option for a fifth season, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Taylor, 31, earned his first All-Star selection with the Dodgers in 2021, hitting .254 with 20 home runs, 73 RBIs and 13 steals. He saw the majority of his playing time as a center fielder and at second base, but he also saw action at the other outfield positions as well as shortstop and third base.

He long has been revered by his Dodgers teammates and coaches for his defensive versatility, offensive approach and quiet professionalism. Since the start of the 2017 season, Taylor has appeared in 88% of the Dodgers’ games, has played six positions, has batted .265/.343/.461 and has accumulated 14.1 FanGraphs wins above replacement.

Taylor had received a qualifying offer worth $18.4 million for one year, but he turned it down to enter free agency.

Financial terms for Wednesday’s agreement were first reported by The Athletic.

Taylor battled a neck injury down the stretch and struggled his way out of the lineup at the start of October, but he made a huge impact in the postseason for the Dodgers, coming off the bench in the National League Wild Card Game to hit a two-out, two-run walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals. He followed that with three home runs in an 11-2 victory against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. His 13 total bases in that game set a Dodgers postseason franchise record.

It was some needed good news for the Dodgers, who had already seen star pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Corey Seager leave for big deals via free agency.

After breaking into the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 2014, Taylor was traded to the Dodgers in 2016. In his six-plus seasons in Los Angeles, he hit .264.

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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