MLB vs. Players Union: What Is MLBPA Fighting Against With Likely Lockout After CBA Expires?

December 1 is getting closer and closer, and that date has major significance for Major League Baseball this offseason. This is the date on which the current Collective Agreement (CBA), which is the negotiated agreement that governs almost every aspect of the working relationship between players and team owners, expires.

As negotiations on a new agreement continue intensely, the widely held expectation is that there is not enough time to forge a new collective agreement before the current agreement expires. Likewise, the widely held expectation is that owners on December 1 or 2 will lock out players until a new collective agreement is agreed. This lockdown, if it lasts long enough, would jeopardize the 2022 season or at least its normal course.

We have already undertaken some broad visions of the negotiation process for this new collective agreement, and now let’s take a look at the players’ side. In particular: what does the union hope to accomplish in these talks? Basically, the two sides are arguing over the distribution of the league’s income. The players want to tackle their declining share, and the owners want to thwart those efforts.

To take a closer look, let’s take a look at a few details from the players side and what they are likely fighting for in these negotiations.

A reinvigorated free agency

We’ve seen very lukewarm and slow-growing free agent markets in recent years, and all but the high-end ones have often struggled to find suitors. There are several reasons for this. Perhaps foremost among them is the fact that teams are increasingly relying on players whose costs and control of the team are controlled, i.e. those who are not yet eligible. wage arbitration or free agency. By extension, this is hurting the free agent market, as evidenced by the fact that the average salary has fallen slightly in recent years even as inflation has otherwise risen.

So what to do about it? The only way to tackle this problem from the Players’ Association perspective is to lower the free will threshold. Currently, players with six full years of major league service are eligible for free agency. In an earlier proposal leaked to the press, the owners pitched the idea of ​​free agency based on age, but the details of their offer – free agency at 29 1/2 – will do nothing to revive the Marlet . A more likely tactic for players is to push to lower that threshold to five years of service.

Another possibility is to set down what constitutes a year of MLB service. Currently, a player must be on the active list or on the injured list for 172 days during the regular season in order to get a full year of service credit for things like officiating and eligibility for a free agent. The regular season is currently running for 187 days, which means teams only have to delay a coveted prospect’s appeal by two weeks and change to delay their eventual free will (and refereeing) d ‘a full year. This is called the manipulation of duty time, and it is also a target of the union in these negotiations. Reducing the number of days it takes to earn a year of service would increase the disincentives to keep prospects fully ready on the farm in an attempt to rob them of another year of vetting.

A shorter deadline to make young players pay

Tied to the aforementioned phenomenon and established teams depending on players who have yet to reach their high-wage years, the union undoubtedly wants to address this injustice. Young players in terms of value on the pitch are, as a group, better than older players, but the archaic salary structure, which is driven by permanence rather than ability, does not reflect this. Right now, almost all players are only eligible for the major league minimum until they have three years of MLB service, when they become eligible for officiating. To put a damning point, AL MVP runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has only earned $ 605,400 this season (compared to the current minimum wage of $ 570,500), which means he’s been underpaid compared to to its production of tens of millions of dollars.

For the union, this can be approached in several ways. The clearest path would be to fight for a significant increase in the minimum wage. Right now, the MLB minimum is lower than the NFL, NBA, and NHL minimums, and that’s not a trend the Players Association should allow to continue. In an ideal world, the union would devote a large portion of its bargaining capital to doubling the minimum, or roughly. Not only would such a jump to the minimum raise the de facto floor wage by a significant margin, it would also provide lower class players who never make it to arbitration and free agency much more secure. financial. This is all the more important as the average length of a career in MLB tends to decline.

Instead of a major increase to the minimum (or more), players could lower the officiating eligibility bar to two years (where it was at the start of the process), and they’ve already launched set aside a pool of income to be distributed to pre-referee players. Either would advance the laudable goal of making new players pay more in the majors.

Counter-incentives to tanking

Over the past few years, a number of teams have mined their rosters and basically rolled out field products that are just the name of the major leagues. They do this in the name of acquiring future “assets” in the trade and to improve the draft position, which theoretically improves the team’s long-term outlook. Needless to say, this is anathema to the union’s goals, and players would like team owners to be at least half as competitive as themselves.

An obvious first step is to change the way the draft order is determined so that teams aren’t essentially rewarded for being terrible. The lottery approach is one way to do it, but it hasn’t exactly stifled tanking in the NBA. Another possibility is to require some sort of basic “respectability” in the ranking in order to get a high choice.

Really, though, hoarding draft picks isn’t the main reason teams don’t showcase competitive rosters. Through revenue sharing, local and national television deals, real estate companies surrounding their stadiums (presumably publicly funded) and now revenue from gambling, teams are fundamentally guaranteed to be profitable independent of the day’s income. like parking fees and ticket sales and concessions. All of this in the absence of any competitive pride, and you get teams that don’t make a good faith effort to field a competitive team. Gamers will certainly be pushing for their share of the gambling money in these negotiations, and you might see the union making a more general argument that the revenue streams that owners see as independent would never exist without the games. baseball that players play. They would of course have a good point about it. Carving out a share of that revenue for gamers would in turn leave owners with a somewhat less comfortable bed to lie on and not do much about.

Making owners more competitive with each other and more willing to invest in player payroll means more than changing the way draft picks are distributed. This primarily means restoring a small level of risk in the effort of owning a baseball team. The billionaire’s sense of entitlement, however, is still a formidable obstacle.

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