Minor league FA Vogt holds out on deal in union solidarity

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Vogt ended last season as a World Series champion with the Atlanta Braves, then became a minor league free agent through a quirk of roster management.

Unlike Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman and more than 100 other players on the market, Vogt would have been allowed to sign a contract in recent months given he was a minor league free agent and had interest from a half-dozen teams. The veteran catcher preferred to wait and stand by his big league brotherhood locked out by owners.

Now, he’s ready to get back to the ballpark.

“The details are what they are, and I’m thankful for the union and I’m thankful to be part of the union, but at the same time, I’m excited to play,” Vogt said.

The baseball work stoppage ended Thursday when players accepted management’s offer for a new labor contract that salvaged a 162-game season starting April 7. Spring training camps will open to players Friday, with exhibition games starting by the end of next week.

“Just obviously like the rest of the baseball world waiting for the announcement and then waiting for the chaos to ensue that will be the next few days or weeks or whatever may come from the flurry of transactions and movements,” Vogt said by phone Thursday from Olympia, Washington. “It’s going to be fun to watch.”

It wasn’t the plan for the 37-year-old journeyman to be a minor league free agent this winter. Vogt got injured before the playoffs and had surgery for a sports hernia Oct. 6. The Braves needed his roster spot, so Vogt was designated for assignment, then immediately brought back on a minor league deal that allowed him to still be around the club through the postseason.

“It was kind of like a paperwork move,” Vogt explained following his final physical therapy session Thursday post-surgery.

He’s looking for a team for what would be his 10th major league season after starting 2021 with Arizona and being traded to Atlanta. Vogt hopes some clubs that contacted him during the offseason might circle back.

He will be contending for roster spots with more than 100 big leaguers left in free-agency limbo by a roster freeze that accompanied the lockout. A frenetic game of musical chairs of trades and transactions is expected over the next few days and weeks.

Vogt isn’t ruling out the chance of pursuing a major league contract, but knows plenty of proven veterans have accepted minor league contracts with spring training invites in recent years to try to earn their way onto big league rosters. He did it himself with San Francisco in 2019.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the market plays out, because roster spots are precious,” Vogt said. “A lot of times now, veteran players have to go earn their way onto the big league roster. That’s kind of the way the game has trended.”

Regardless of how it works out, Vogt can’t wait to get back onto the diamond, grateful for the union’s work. The first step is done.

“Woooooooooohoooooooooo!!!” he said via text shortly after the deal. “I’m just so happy that we are back playing. I love this game, and am so glad we get to get back out there and play for our fans!”


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