With the crowning of the Atlanta Braves as World Series Champions, the baseball offseason is upon us once again.  For a baseball card collector, the offseason is frequently a time to purchase items at a discount.  However, this offseason may be unlike any we have experienced in quite a while.  As most of you know, the current collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners expires on December 1st.  If the two sides do not agree on a new deal before that time, all baseball related activities will cease.  There will be no free agent signings and potentially a delay to Spring Training and the regular season.

While both the players and owners are saying the right things, most baseball insiders are predicting that the December 1st date will pass without a deal being reached.  What does this mean for baseball card collectors?  A few observations:

  • For many in the hobby, the 1994 labor stoppage that led to the cancellation of the second half of the regular season and the World Series is a distant memory.  However, disputes between the players and owners were relatively frequent throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  In each of these cases, baseball’s popularity suffered for a season or two, before returning to the status quo.
  • If games are canceled, you will see prices drop on modern cards.  If you are holding “short-term flip” items, I would consider selling them as soon as you are able.  For collectors who are in the hobby long-term, this may be an opportunity to buy at a discount some of the cards that were previously outside of your budget.
  • The Minor Leagues will not be affected by a delay to the baseball season.  Prospect cards may be a worthwhile place to allocate some funds to weather this storm.
  • It is time to be cautious when evaluating the long-term hobby potential of star players in the middle and second half of their careers.  Two years ago, Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve, and Corey Seager all appeared to be on a path to Cooperstown.  With the loss of a half-season to COVID-19 and the potential loss of part of the 2022 campaign, these three players will need to have exceptional conclusions to their careers to get the statistics necessary for Hall of Fame induction.

With this in mind, here are five cards I am watching this offseason:

2019 Topps Chrome #203 Fernando Tatis Jr.

In PSA 9, this card was selling in August for $130.  Since then, it has seen a steady decline and currently has an eBay buy it now price of $70.  There were a ton of these cards printed, and Tatis Jr. has his shortcomings (injuries and shouting matches with teammates), but he is also is one of baseball’s most exciting young players.  If PSA 9 versions of this card start going at auction for $45 to $50, I will be a buyer.

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