While there has been a lot of doom and gloom since the MLB Players Association rejected the most recent proposal by ownership for a new collective bargaining agreement, there have been trickles of noteworthy information on several fronts.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the 2022 season, scheduled to begin March 31, on Tuesday, shortly after a league-imposed deadline passed without a new labor deal. The previous CBA expired Dec. 1, with owners imposing a lockout just after midnight ET the following day.
Here is the latest on some issues:
Negotiations and Schedule
On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted that the two sides are scheduled to meet Sunday, with the MLBPA making a written counterproposal. This will be the first meeting since Tuesday’s deadline passed, although two representatives from each side — including the chief negotiators — got together in New York on Thursday, seemingly laying the groundwork for how the process will proceed.
Time is certainly pressing. MLB on Friday wiped out a third week of spring training games, with March 18 the earliest exhibitions can begin. Also, more regular-season series will be put in jeopardy if a deal can’t be reached in the next few days, based on when Manfred canceled the first two series.
Luxury Tax and Owners
The competitive balance tax is the biggest issue to be resolved and a small faction of owners objected to MLB’s latest proposal to players. The offer of a $220 million threshold — a modest increase from last season’s level — did not have the support of four team: the Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds, according to multiple reports.
In the most recent labor deal, the CBT starting point grew from $195 million in 2017 to $210 million in 2021. Teams were penalized 20% for a first-time overage, 30% for back-to-back seasons and 50% for three or more in a row. MLB’s previous proposal was $214 million, while the players have countered with $238 million.
According to Sportrac, only one team went past the threshold in 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The CBT acts as a soft salary cap. Players would also like to see a minimum teams have to spend on players.
For the first time, an international draft appears to be coming close to reality. The international market — where players from outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada are signed — is fraught with seediness, as handlers in countries such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela often take advantage of prospects to pocket a chunk of the signing bonuses given to 16-year-olds.
To replace the free-for-all, owners have proposed a 20-round draft, with each of the more than 600 spots being assigned a guaranteed bonus amount (starting at $5.25 million for the No. 1 pick), according to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
The selection order would not be based on the on-field success of the teams, like the typical draft of high school and college players is. Instead, Six groups of five teams would be created and the groups would cycle through the draft order to give all teams a shot at the top talent.
Draft picks would be able to be traded and teams can’t pass on selections. Also, there would be competitive balance selections and teams can earn additional picks by signing players from countries outside of the traditional scope.
Rule 5 Draft
One of the more fun aspects of the baseball calendar is the Rule 5 Draft, which typically comes at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings in December. The event is important for a few reasons.
It is a time when clubs must protect prospects who are not on the 40-man roster. Typically, those are players who have spent at least four years with a franchise after signing. In 2021, Akil Baddoo of the Detroit Tigers was among the prominent Rule 5 selections.
However, the lockout has changed that process this offseason. The lockout was imposed just after the deadline to add eligible players to the 40-man roster but before the Winter Meetings and the Rule 5 Draft. With minor-league camps open across Arizona and Florida and just a month before those seasons begin, reports say the Rule 5 Draft could be scuttled for this cycle.
Future Rule Changes
Manfred said Tuesday that the universal designated hitter had been agreed to by both sides for the upcoming season. But tucked into one of the last proposals from owners before Tuesday’s deadline were three others that would impact how the game is played.
Banning shifts, a pitch clock and oversized bases could be unilaterally implemented by MLB for the 2023 season if there is no agreement with players.
Also, multiple reports have said players are open to a 14-team playoff to further negotiation after Manfred said owners had compromised and agreed to a 12-team field.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire