The CBA Situation is Reaching a Head

2-2-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

This subject is touchy.

As human beings, we’re pre-programmed to pick winners and losers, guilty and innocent, right or wrong, and when discussing how this process is progressing, that’s amplified because the dividing lines are murky at best.

Oh sure, you have the owners and the players, but within those two larger entities you have small markets, mid markets, large markets, high priced elite players, every day ham and eggers, and prospects. Agents (especially one) are of course involved, somewhere along the line the government has put their thumb in the pie.

And then waaaaay over here somewhere are the fans. That’s my focus. Not in an effort to declare one side or entity is more interested in serving the fans, as much as to point out how very much so the concerns of those who actually dictate the existence and long term success of MLB simply don’t earn even a hint of consideration.

Oh, they’ll say things about the fans, like ‘our fans deserve better’ or ‘we want to ensure the best product for our fans’ but nobody actually proposes anything that would actually address the concerns of fans. Nobody ever really acknowledges the repeated damage done to a game that the stewardship of has become more of a club than a business that believes the customer is always right.

Baseball isn’t dying. It gets said constantly, all the way back to the 60’s, but the league itself still brings in plenty of dough and most owners are doing quite well. In fact the only entity not absolutely crushing it are the young players and mid range talents.

Today, I’m going to outline where we are after the last round of talks and I think we should try to outline beyond the negotiation points, what fans actually want. Not necessarily the methods, but the outcomes.

Before we get into it, if you need a refresh on where we were, check out this piece I wrote a couple weeks back.

That was a summary of where things stood after the owners proposed their last major proposal, now we’re going to talk about the movement, and roadblocks that are starting to form.

Pre-Arb Bonus Pool

OK, so this is a weird concept. MLBPA would like young players who aren’t quite ready for arbitration to make more money than the league minimum (even though the two sides are discussing increasing the minimum). This would specifically effect players like Vlad Guerrero or Randy Arozarena. The execution of this concept, AKA how they’d calculate these bonuses is hard to nail down, but that’ll come if this has legs.

What’s important is, these bonuses would come from a pool of cash, filled by the league, and paid y the league. The owners offered 10 million for this pool and offered some examples of how it would have effected specific players. Vlad for example would have gone from his base of $635,400, to $1.843 million. The players countered with $105 Million for this pool.

In the latest counter they lowered their ask to $100 million.

If you take nothing else from this piece, take this, when two sides are $95 million apart, and right up against missing the start of Spring Training, then one side moves all of $5 million, it’s not going well.

I expect the owners either to withdrawal this offer all together or demand the players measurably move on this subject.

Draft Picks for Rostering Prospects

The league presented an idea to incentivize rostering prospects for an entire season to supposedly cut down on service time manipulation. In this counter the players essentially said they don’t hat the idea but they want youngsters to be able to earn a full year of service time based on WAR and award voting.

Now, I personally don’t know how a “top” prospect will be identified. If it’s based on lists from writers, that’s a little weird, I mean look no further than the differences in Baseball America and the Athletic’s rankings of the top 100 to see where my concern lies. Someone would have to either decide who is the “bible” and who isn’t, and that just seems impossible to assign to someone just trying to cover and evaluate prospects. WAR is more unforgiving and less subjective, so I have no issue with that aspect.

Either way, the players want Super 2 gone all together, and the owners are on record that this is a non-starter.

Revenue Sharing

Players are still all about wanting a reduction in Revenue Sharing, the idea being that the teams that spend would have more to do so. They’d also like to increase the CBT (Competitive Balance Tax) by upwards of 40 million. These concepts kinda go hand in hand.

As we’ve said before, there were only 7 teams within shouting distance of the faux cap in 2021 so this won’t effect much beyond making the rich a little richer with talent.

This subject wasn’t broached in the latest rebuttal, but again, the owners are on record that decreasing revenue sharing by on red cent is a non-starter.

Conclusion

That’s it for what was discussed in the 90 minute, reportedly contentious meeting. This isn’t encouraging if you’re looking for the crack of the bat this month in Bradenton.

It really does show how far apart these two sides are, and I’ll be completely blunt here, these aren’t even the most difficult of subjects these sides have yet to consider.

The Owners are scheduled for the annual meeting next week, and while I have no real knowledge here, I’ll make an educated guess. I’d bet we don’t see any further meetings between the sides with formal proposals until the week of the 13th. That all but damns Spring Training starting on time.

I get the impression the owners would pretty much take the system we’ve had in place, with the DH, extended playoffs and modest increases to the minimum salary structure and the CBT threshold.

The players want significant change to the young talent spectrum and to the CBT, but we’ll soon find out how important they are.

There is a path to get this done and get back to playing, but if the players or owners don’t take a much larger step toward each other, we could really see this thing escalate. For you cap enthusiasts, escalation is your friend.

The Forgotten Group – Fans

For the most part, no matter what you want to see or who you think is right you want one thing, baseball. No stoppage of work, no lockout, no strike, just play baseball.

That’s not to say you can’t look at the stuff that even this piece outlined and see there is a problem, it’s more to say some have no stomach for this.

I think it’s safe to say most fans want a fair league, one that pays players well and gives every team a chance to win and more so have it not be like catching bigfoot on video when your team does.

Neither side has put forward much more than lip service on this front. Sure, the league says competitive balance but they only say it in an effort to pretend they care about this issue more than restricting salaries.

In fact, if I’m honest, where we are as of right now, the situation for competitive balance actually stands to get worse, not better.

The owners proposal of a lower CBT and a salary floor was promising, even if not enough to 100% fix the game. Now that they’ve removed it all together, there is nothing left on the table that anyone could argue will help the teams that can’t keep up with the Jones’. I’ve seen some math from Baseball Prospectus’ Editor-in-Chief that suggest every team based on just local and national TV money, before even factoring in revenue sharing each team could afford $100 million. I’ll not dispute that, even without seeing the sources, even while acknowledging it’s at least a little short on depth. Teams spend a bunch of money on other things so I don’t think it’s quite as easy as what was presented, but I still think it’s reasonable to expect. Feel free to read his thread.

Thing is, the league quite literally already proposed it, and while some of you will throw on the cape for the players here and point out it came with a reduction to CBT, the math tells us that this simple change of $100-180 million would increase the amount of money players are paid, and increase competitive balance. Reality is, the players don’t care about any consequence of a system like this beyond the fact that at it’s very core, it’s a cap system. Period.

Now, you as a fan don’t care what it’s called. You’d just like to see some accountability. Some spending by everyone on all ends of things, a bit of a tightening of the gap between the top and bottom spenders. You aren’t looking for a winner or loser, you just want competition, fairness and everyone to win.

I don’t say this in an effort to paint the owners as altruistic by way of proposing this, I say it to illustrate why transformative change simply isn’t coming by everyone pretending these sides will just get it one day. It’ll come by strongarm tactics. Sad but true.

The lockout was put in place because with no CBA and the sides this far apart, this was going to lead to a strike. The owners don’t have to look back too far to see what trusting in season negotiations led to. Back in 1994 we lost half a season and a World Series to a strike, one that was initiated because the two sides were close to an agreement before Spring Training and felt they could hammer out the details while still playing ball. Well, once they started playing, the players realized they were now the side who held the cards, and they went all in, soundly defeating the owners and setting forth much of the broken system we watch today.

Zero chance owners allow that again.

Fans don’t get a say, again. And neither side is poised to step up and speak for the silent majority here, you know, us.

I’ve done this before, but this is the math based on publicly available payroll figures.

4.041 Billion Total Payroll
– 80 Million (That’s how much is lost by lowering the CBT based on who would have to cut back)
= 3.961 Billion

Now add up how much every team needs to spend to hit the floor from where they are right now of which there are 14 teams.

3.961 Billion
+ 531 Million in new payroll money to meet the floor
= 4.492 Billion

That’s an overall increase of 451 million dollars infused into the players salaries.

As a fan, you look at that and think win/win right? Back to the original point, the biggest and arguably most important segment of individuals to the game don’t get a representative. If we did, this idea right here would be actively massaged into existence.

Be mad at who you like, both sides should wear it and deserve it, but be more upset that you at the end of the day are the one who isn’t being listened to.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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