We stand just 25 days away from a possible MLB lockout by owners if a new collective-bargaining agreement with players is not reached by 11:59 p.m. ET December 1.
Per Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic, the players have made some proposals to owners, after owners recently did the same. Those proposals include:
As previously reported, the union’s first proposal would have allowed players to become eligible for arbitration after two years, instead of three. The union in May also proposed a change to draft order, increases in the minimum salary, raises to the CBT thresholds, changes to revenue sharing between clubs, changes to the way service time is calculated, and bonuses for players who have yet to reach arbitration. Under certain circumstances, some players would be able to reach free agency sooner than six years, as well.
None of this is likely to happen, because owners’ previous proposals included a reduction in the top levels of luxury tax payments, and also:
The league also proposed to eliminate salary arbitration in favor of a predetermined pool of money to be distributed to players. Under MLB’s proposal, players would become free agents once they hit age 29 1/2, which might help some players who would otherwise have become free agents later, but hurt the best players who presumably would, under the current system, become free agents at a younger age. (Players would also be walking out into a market where teams might be less inclined to spend than they are now, because the CBT threshold would be lower and the penalties for exceeding it would be higher.)
It sounds like the two sides are pretty far apart, which isn’t uncommon at this stage of negotiating. As noted in Rosenthal and Drellich’s article:
One person briefed on the union’s proposal suggested that significant movement on either side likely won’t happen until later in the month.
“Everything will come together in the last 72 hours, or more likely not,” the person said. “And we’ll see where it goes from there.”
There’s a bit more information on what’s being asked for in a Twitter thread from Maury Brown, who writes about baseball business issues for Forbes. They include, from ownership’s side:
• Owners want expanded playoffs.— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) November 4, 2021
• Owners will try for other matters, but that’s the big item.
• Owners are going to be playing defense because…. 4/x
As noted by Brown, expanded playoffs are the biggest thing for owners, because more money from TV partners for expanded playoffs are what’s driving this engine. A 14-team playoff field has been proposed. Consider this: If we had such a 14-team playoff field in 2021, the Reds and Phillies would have qualified. Do those seem like postseason teams to you? Nope, me neither. Also, instead of all the drama we got in MLB’s final regular-season week involving the race for the final two AL playoff spots between the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners, all four would have qualified. Yawn. Expanded playoffs might mean more money for owners, but they would not necessarily lead to better or more interesting baseball for fans.
Brown continues with what are key player wants:
• MLBPA seeking players entering salary arb earlier which allows them to enter free agency earlier. Could be all service level players with 2 years would enter.— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) November 4, 2021
• MLBPA concerned about tanking.
• MLBPA concerned about service clock manipulation
The first point was also made in Rosenthal and Drellich’s article; the second and third have been player concerns for quite some time. We’re all very familiar with “service clock manipulation” from the Kris Bryant situation. Players would like to see that changed. Owners, most likely, would not. The possible good news, from the Rosenthal and Drellich article:
The league and the union are likely to hold in-person bargaining sessions next week in Carlsbad, Calif., where MLB is holding its annual general managers’ meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. The union has its annual agent meetings scheduled to begin at the end of the week in the same area, bringing representatives from both sides to the same locale at the same time.
At least they’re still talking, which is always a good sign in labor negotiations. 25 days might not seem like a lot of time, but at least as of now, the fact that they’re still talking and setting up more bargaining sessions perhaps means that we won’t be talking about a lockout on December 2.
As always, we await developments.