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White Sox’ slow start could be CBA-related

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Jason Castro signs with Minnesota, and hint of lockout might meddle with other negotiations

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Within a few minutes on Tuesday night, the White Sox missed out on a catcher that would have theoretically fit any plan, and the league tipped one potential reason why.

The Twins were the ones to land Jason Castro, the most popular catcher solution in our offseason plan project. At three years and $24.5 million, it’s a contract that is both fraught with risk and eminently reasonable. If he does what he’s been doing — framing and being a .300 OBP guy with 10-homer power — he’ll be more or less worth it. Given his low offensive ceiling, there’s also a chance the Twins might struggle with .190-hitting key addition at the All-Star break.

That’s an outcome the Sox know well, but at this stage in their precarious existence, the financial aspect wouldn’t have killed them. If Castro flopped and took a one-more-run Sox team down with him, they’d sell after the season. If the White Sox are rebuilding, an $8 million salary is pretty much inconsequential.

The Sox could use a catcher who won’t make pitchers’ jobs harder, especially if sketchy-command guys like Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer figure significantly into the next pitching staff. Yet aside from the initial assessments of Castro’s market, we didn’t hear that the Sox were in on him. Nor were they in on Brian McCann, another catcher who would serve the same purpose in a different shape of production.

So what’s stopping them? Maybe the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, which aren’t going as smoothly as we were led to believe.

Not that they’re necessarily going poorly. Sure, Rob Manfred has started negotiating in the press ...

Baseball’s streak of 21 consecutive years of labor peace is in jeopardy.

The owners will consider voting to lock out the players if the two sides cannot reach a new collective-bargaining agreement by the time the current deal expires on Dec. 1, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.

“We don’t negotiate in the press,” commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We remain committed to the idea that we’re going to make an agreement before expiration.”

But I agree with Craig Calcaterra that Manfred might be taking the step of hinting at doomsday because owners are actually getting some pushback from the union after years of pushing it around. Rosenthal identifies the chief battleground as an international draft. On the surface, it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on current MLBPA members, but a healthy contingent of noted Latin players have voiced their opposition to a draft.

Right now, high-profile prospects in the Dominican Republic might get more signing money than all but a handful of stateside amateurs, but that’s because they have the leverage of an open(ish) market. That upper hand would be undermined by an international draft, which would lower the ceiling on their earnings, and they wouldn’t have the leverage of a college commitment to save them on the floor side. That’s why baseball’s international players have been vocal about preserving the situation for future members.

Considering the last CBA made the international market navigable for a team that has no interest in spending competitions -- cough — this doesn’t seem like a make-or-break issue. Major League Baseball is rolling in billions, and publicly financed stadiums contribute to the wealth of the sport, so I don’t think the owners would be foolish enough to cry poor this time around. I’m guessing they didn’t expect to have to shake the machine to get the concession they’re used to receiving, and now they’re doing it hard enough to trip alarms.

At any rate, Ken Rosenthal said the most immediate effect of a lockout would be turning the winter meetings into a cocktail party, as teams wouldn’t be able to make signings or trades under those circumstances. This could explain why a team like the White Sox -- one whose future might rest with trades rather than free-agent signings -- could be in a holding pattern. Or it could be business as usual.