Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement is less than a week old and not officially codified to the public, so our understanding of the system is going to be gradual.
Two articles help us toward this end. Bob Nightengale assessed the early winners and losers, in which he does an excellent job with the wonky aspects of revenue-sharing and luxury-tax punishments by using teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and A’s as concrete examples.
The vastly different futures for big- and small-market teams set the stage for the other instructive article. Jeff Passan wrote a fascinating recap of the CBA negotiations, saying that whatever peace was gained over this process will be at risk in 2021.
This was not a transformative labor deal, far from it, but a wide swath of people familiar with its inner details told Yahoo Sports some version of the same story Thursday: What it lacks in instantaneous impact it may make up for in historical resonance. Because baseball is barreling toward a potentially nuclear negotiation in 2021, when this current deal expires, that could see a confluence of factors – massive revenue increases, a growing chasm between big and small markets, continued international strife – lead to a far more tortuous and torturous path toward a deal.
“This is just the setup for war in 2021,” one high-ranking official told Yahoo Sports.
Another longtime power broker went a step further.“
If there’s not a strike,” he said, “I’ll be shocked.”
Besides the conflicting interests of the owners and players, there are also internal rifts on both sides. For the players, Passan was told that the Latin American players who showed up in numbers to steer the MLBPA against an international draft created an opportunity for MLB to institute its first hard spending cap, and without having to grant unfettered free agency in exchange. Teams are only allotted $5-6 million, which achieves cost control without needing to put it in draft form. It could be a mistake the union realizes for the next time around, and it could be very costly to (attempt to) undo.
But while that seems like a coup for the owners, it’s one of a few measures that prevents the deep-pocketed teams from being able to wield their might. There are steep penalties for exceeding the international pool, which also stacks with the enhanced punishment for exceeding the luxury tax to handcuff teams that actually want to spend money:
Which is to say luxury-tax recidivists with enormous payrolls could stand to pay nearly a dollar-for-dollar tax on money spent, a level never seen before and one a club president said “might as well be like a cap.” That might be an exaggeration, but other rules do strongly disincentivize spending for teams over the luxury tax.
Hell, it’s not even so much the wealthy teams, because the Padres of all teams will be forced to limit their spending to one-eighth of what they put forward this past international signing period. Basically, some teams won’t be able to spend the money they’re used to spending in the way they prefer to spend it, and then you throw in the calculations for revenues and market size stand a good chance of leaving more customers unsatisfied, and there could be some squabbles between franchises.
The good news is that there are five years of baseball before any kind of reckoning occurs. More good news? As a team that didn’t exceed international spending caps, has never come close to the luxury tax and doesn’t usually have impending free agents deserving of a qualifying offer, the White Sox stand to mostly benefit from the new CBA. If they end up in the bottom half of teams by revenue, they could gain even more in the forms of draft positioning on qualifying-offer free agents and international spending allowance. Jerry Reinsdorf objected to Rob Manfred’s promotion because he didn’t have a private line, but you’d never know it by the details revealed so far.