PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Cautioning reporters to "follow the evidence" regarding Biogenesis -- the Miami clinic under investigation for links to performance-enhancing drugs -- Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner called MLB's Joint Drug Program a continued topic of discussion between the union and league.
After meeting with Mets players in Port St. Lucie on Thursday morning, Weiner said he expects MLB to be open to discussion about both the drug program and issues of Draft-pick compensation.
The MLBPA had been fielding questions about the Joint Drug Program even before recent reports linked players such as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun to Biogenesis, which the league is currently investigating.
"It's been a topic of discussion, and we've initiated conversation with guys throughout the offseason, even before the Miami issue came up," Weiner said. "Appropriately so, there's a lot of discussion among players about what is the best drug treatment to have. Having said that, players understand that what's happening in Miami at this point remains to be seen in terms of fairness and judging things on the evidence. But there is a lot of talk in the clubhouse about where we should be on the Joint Drug Program, and that's a good thing."
Regarding Draft-pick compensation, Weiner said he was concerned about the degree to which players tagged with compensation were affected in free agency. Pitcher Kyle Lohse remains unemployed, and outfielder Michael Bourn did not sign with Cleveland until after pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training.
Bourn's case in particular caught the union's attention, because the Mets hinged their pursuit of him upon their potential ability to avoid compensation. Because the Mets finished with the 10th-worst record in the Majors last season, they believed their first-round pick should have been protected under rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But when the Pirates did not sign their top pick last year, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, they received the 10th overall selection in 2013, which bumped the Mets to 11th.
Had the Mets agreed on years and dollars with Bourn, they would have approached an arbiter asking for a reinterpretation of the rule, citing concerns of competitive balance. Weiner said he still may seek out a ruling to prevent the issue from resurfacing.
"I don't think it was the intention of either bargaining party that Draft-choice compensation would have the depth of the effect, or the intensity of the effect, that it had on some players," Weiner said. "Obviously from a player's perspective, this isn't good, but from a club's perspective, they want to sign a guy. They want to improve their team. And it impedes them. So again, the owners have no obligation to bargain over this issue until the next Basic Agreement, but I expect there will be some talk."
MLB and the union agreed to a new CBA that took effect in 2012. The deal, which included changes regarding the Joint Drug Program and Draft-pick compensation, runs through '16, and Weiner said he expects to discuss possible changes when the deal hits its midpoint next year.
"The CBA is the CBA through 2016," Weiner said. "Having said that, whether it is issues of the joint drug agreement, issues of Draft-choice compensation, whatever it is, at least both the union and the Commissioner's Office have shown a willingness to have a discussion about midterm corrections. They're not obligated to make any changes."