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MLBPA underwhelmed by latest MLB CBA proposal

Ownership’s SECOND proposal since it instituted a lockout leaves players wanting.

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MLB: JAN 09 MLB Lockout David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLB and MLBPA representatives met Saturday to discuss the league’s second (yes, second in 73 days) proposal, as we are just days from spring training camps opening for pitchers and catchers.

Rob Manfred had held a press conference on Thursday and stated that the league was “prepared to make a good faith proposal” ... however, the players were reportedly underwhelmed by what MLB had presented.

As reported by Evan Drellich, MLB updated their proposal of the Collective Bargaining Tax (CBT), which would eliminate draft pick penalties for teams that exceed the threshold. The offer includes increasing the current CBT threshold to $222 million by 2026, still beginning at $214 million in 2022. MLB’s proposal also included updates such as:

  • two options for minimum league salary, which would allow service time manipulation to survive, in some form
  • increasing the pre-arbitration bonus pool offer from $10 million to a whopping $15 million

Both of these concepts represent considerably less give than the players have requested.

The offer regarding the pre-arbitration bonus pool states that the money would be distributed among players with the Top 30 WAR, or receiving any awards for that season. While WAR is a useful statistic to showcase how effective a player is to a team, it most certainly is not the end-all, be-all. There is also no “universal” or “proprietary MLB” WAR measure.

The reported two ideas that MLB provided regarding minimum league salary included a tiered proposal based on service time, or a flat amount of $630,000. The league updated its previous tiered proposal, with the increase in Year 3 of service time jumping to $725,000 from $700,000. While this is an increase, both offers still come in much lower than MLBPA’s original request of $775,000.

To get a deal done to preserve as much of spring training and the regular season as possible, the league is simply going to need to do better than what they have provided today.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood, who has been consistently vocal on Twitter throughout the lockout, tweeted in frustration about the CBT and how it impacts teams, with specific consideration toward tanking. He is certainly not wrong that the CBT does not need to exist in the first place, as “current penalties are used as an excuse not to spend money.” As a fan, this is much appreciated, because it would be most beneficial to fans, clubs, and the league if all teams had the incentive to compete every year.

Saturday’s meeting also touched on service time manipulation, encouraging teams to keep their top players and prospects by awarding additional draft picks to teams when a player finishes in the Top 3 for awards. Additional items discussed included instituting an NBA-style draft lottery, and updates to minor league roster options and rules that would allow teams to draft and develop young players and prevent teams from releasing a player due to potential injury.

Outside of CBA negotiations, this week Evan Drellich also reported that MLB representative Elise Bloom presented an argument in court on Saturday (in a class action lawsuit) that minor league players should not be paid during spring training. It is extremely unclear to me to understand why players, who devote an immense amount of time training and preparing to compete in the big leagues, should not be paid for the work they do for MLB clubs.

Full quote from an MLB representative:

“It is the players that obtain the greater benefit from the training opportunities that they are afforded than the clubs, who actually just incur the cost of having to provide that training. During the training season, the players are not employees, and would not be subject to either the Fair Labor Standards Act or any state minimum wage act.”

Former minor leaguer and attorney, Garrett Broshuis, made an excellent point showcasing how “players sign contracts that have them performing services for the club throughout the entire calendar year.” Playing in MiLB is not a cakewalk or just playing for fun, it is an actual job that players show up to, day-in and day-out — working to refine their skills and represent their teams the best they can.

In an even more more amusing update, Bloom has also previously stated that minor leaguers develop additional talents throughout spring training, such as language and communication skills. Players, including Seattle Mariners pitcher Casey Sadler and Detroit Tigers pitcher Nick Kuzia, have been reacting on Twitter, exhibiting their (understandable) frustration with the league.

MLB is seemingly determined to dig themselves into a massive hole by continuing to fight tooth-and-nail to pay the players — their employees — as little as possible.

There is no word yet on when the next round of CBA meetings would be, but at this rate, it is definitely looking like the season will be delayed — or, at a minimum, spring training will not begin on time. While I was a bit more hopeful after Thursday’s meetings, I’ve pretty much gone fully pessimistic about the 2022 season.

Every deal has to begin with a first step. But while we can send as many thoughts and prayers as we’d like, if MLB continues to negotiate in this manner there’s no way to know when we will actually be getting baseball this year.