I can remember there being some debate in 2002 over the free agent market being down that offseason. I was a big believer that something was up, but I think I was in the minority.
It turns out I was right to distrust baseball owners:
It is being reported, that as part of the new agreement, payments have been awarded to the players after some 50 grievances were filed regarding collusion during the 2002 free agency period. The total dollar figure of the payments is reported to be $12 million. Bill Madden has confirmed that offers "were actually being determined for the clubs by MLB's central office."
I'm not sure it's possible to ever overestimate how scummy baseball ownership can be.
It's possible I'll end up eating my words, but I'm pretty happy with Bob Castellini so far. He doesn't seem to view the Reds as an ATM, which I think makes him far different from the vast majority of owners in baseball, and also quite a contrast from recent Reds ownership.
The Player's Union isn't perfect by any means, but it's stuff like this that'll always make me think that any labor difficulties can be placed squarely at the feet of the owners.