Earlier today the representation for the owners of Major League Baseball met with the representation of the Major League Baseball Players Association. For the most part it doesn’t seem that the meeting between the two sides made much progress as the ownership side made several proposals.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network is reporting that the owners are dead set against allowing players to reach free agency after five years instead of six. The players want free agency to come sooner as teams are both delaying free agency through service time manipulation and also mostly refusing to pay for non-star caliber free agents like they have in the past, thus cutting off “payback” earnings from when players were severely underpaid before reaching free agency. That report was backed up by one from Evan Drellich of The Athletic.

Ownership didn’t change their first offer before the lockout on minimum salary, sticking with a raise of $600,000 a year to $700,000 a year in a tiered system. The players have proposed a starting minimum salary of $775,000 to start and having it escalate to $875,000 by the end of the CBA. With inflation, a $600,000 minimum salary is worth less than the minimum salary at the start of the 2017 season by $50,000.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet is reporting that he heard that the owners offered a “solution to service time manipulation” that would award teams an additional draft pick if  a “highly ranked (top 150 ranked)” prospect spent the full year in the league and finished in the top five in awards voting for the MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year. The problem here is that MLB employees (via MLB.com) get to vote for these awards and the “ranking” wasn’t specified and MLB.com has their own rankings. There’s a massive conflict of interest here. And that ignores that, realistically the only change here is that owners are actually rewarding themselves here. There is actually no punishment at all for doing what they’ve always done, just a small little reward, maybe, for not doing that thing.

Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers of ESPN report that the owners countered the players proposal of 12 teams making the playoffs with a proposal that 14 teams make the playoffs.

Where there was some progress made, though, was on the designated hitter front. The ownership side proposed a universal DH and it seems that they are in agreement with the players on that coming with the new deal. Sorry, holdouts, but it seems like you’ve lost this battle.

For the most part, as Eugene Freedman puts it, the proposal today from MLB was mind boggling unserious.


34 Responses

  1. Mark Moore


    This is pretty much what I expected out of today, though given nobody “stormed out” I guess that’s some level of progress.

    I’m actually in favor of the DH (I held out for a LONG time) for any number of reasons. I do think younger players are getting shafted on a regular basis, but that’s just my opinion.

    And I don’t think anybody was serious about progress with this round of talks. I just don’t see it. That’s a bit concerning as a baseball fan. I’m thinking we’ll see some serious delays.

    Doug, I’m here just about every day and commenting often. I know my traffic alone doesn’t help much, but you are providing the bests Redleg fan platform out here at a time when we really need it. Thanks for what you and the team do.

    • mlieb13

      I rarely comment, but I do visit the site daily. Thanks for the great work Doug.

  2. Redsvol

    so what are the players offering in this negotiation. I guess more teams in the playoffs – which won’t affect every team but it is something. The players are getting salary raises in pre-arbitration and another hitter in the lineup.

    Until there is true revenue sharing (with the players) and a salary cap (like the NFL and NBA), I don’t see the players getting much more. I don’t see why the owners would budge much on allowing free agency sooner. Personally, I think it should come sooner for players of a certain age (29 or 30) but again I don’t see the owners budging unless the players are prepared to miss a large part of the season.

    I don’t understand why the players won’t go for a salary floor with a tax threshold on the upper end in the round of negotiations. It would automatically raise the entire sport’s payroll by probably $150 million (based on teams currently below the number I saw floated) and wouldn’t really impact the top end because only 2-3 teams are blowing past the tax threshold anyway. Those teams will continue to go past it.

    • Doug Gray

      More teams in the playoffs means more televised playoff games, which means a boatload of extra money for the owners.

  3. LDS

    I’m still not a fan of the DH and expanded playoffs but I expected to lose. I wasn’t in favor of interleague play, the division realignments, or the elimination of all the minor league affiliates. How’d that work out for me? As for the current CBA negotiations, they went about as we all expected. I’m not expecting resolution in time for a real season.

    • Gonzo Reds

      I don’t mind league scheduling changes such as aligning the teams better geographically (although I still root against the Dodgers from our time as rivals in the West), more playoff teams, interleague play etc. I have a problem with changing the fundamentals of the game itself, things that make the games more interesting to me as someone who has watched and played the game from a young age. Hate the shift, hate starting runners on 2B in extras, hate the 3 batter rule for pitchers, and most of all hate the DH rule. If you can’t play the field you aren’t a ball player that should still be in the majors in my opinion. Of course, Bell will love that change as he has a poor defender in Winker who is blocked at 1B that he can use as a DH plus Bell won’t actually have to make as many strategic decisions… a bonus because he is not a good manager in that area.

  4. BK

    The 2017 MLB minimum salary was $535,000. Adjusted for inflation according to the annual rates as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be just under $617,000 not $650,000. Of note, this includes 2021’s 7% rate which is the highest in 20 years. Given that inflation really took off in the last half of last year, I doubt very many workers doing similar work in 2022 as they were in 2021 received a 7% raise.

    • Doug Gray

      I didn’t do the math, myself…. a national writer was talking about it. Maybe I misunderstood or maybe he simply had it incorrect.

  5. BK

    Of course Eugene Freedman thinks the Owners offer was mind-boggling and unserious. He is a labor attorney after all! I don’t think today’s outcome was unexpected.

    The Owners have identified Revenue Sharing (the sharing of money between teams) and the Reserve period as aspects they don’t want to change. They agreed to a universal DH which monetarily favors the players.

    The players have agreed to expand the playoffs to 12–will they go for 14? The players have offered to wear patches–did the Owners ask for this and are they interested? Hopefully, MLBPA will signal their priorities in their counter proposal. Until they do that, the Owners are largely negotiating against themselves–don’t expect them to do anything but shuffle their offer until they get a better idea what the Players hold dearest.

    • Doc

      How does universal DH monetarily favor players? There will still be 26 players on the MLB roster. If a team has a budget and an older higher priced player becomes DH it just means the 26th player will be at minimum salary.

      Personally, I think DH hurts the younger players. A five tool youngster can ride the pine at minimum salary while a down-to-one-tool oldster collects big bucks. DH is a semi-retirement package for over the hill players who can no longer play baseball, they can only still hit a baseball.

      Oh, and daylight savings time does not result in more hours of sunshine during the day!

      • LDS

        For once Doc, we agree. Pitchers hitting also makes the game more interesting strategically, at least to me.

      • BK

        Eno Sarris at the Athletic estimated the universal DH is worth about $60M to the players based on how it has played out in the American League. Essentially, on some teams, it will take a bench player (likely at or close to the MLB minimum) and replace them with a “starter” making an above MLB average salary. That said, there are likely some cost savings with reducing injuries to pitchers. Is it a monumental shift towards the players? No. But most agree it does financially benefit the players.

      • BK

        Since the Athletic is behind a subscriber site, I’ve provided a 2015 analysis conducted by Fangraphs. Based on 2014 payroll, it calculated that the AL spent $45M more than the NL on bench players. Adjusted for inflation, their estimate is really close to the one Eno Sarris came up with. That said, I do agree with you that nothing in the next CBA will change the amount of sunshine we have each day, with or without Daylight Savings Time.


    • Doug Gray

      If you read his entire thread, rather than just the specific tweet in the article, you can see far more about why he calls it unserious.

      • BK

        Doug, thank you. I went back and read all of Mr. Freedman’s thread. It’s an interesting read, but it is written from a labor perspective with clear intent to support MLBPA–that doesn’t mean there are valid points, but the slant is unsurprising given Mr. Freedman has spent his life as a labor attorney.

        @Hotto, the Owners essentially offered up the universal DH to the players during the COVID negotiations. So, they entered negotiations with MLBPA knowing they would make that concession. (Note: this is one reason both sides really want to assess the other sides priorities before making offers that are close to their last and best offer–which should be the point where they prefer to lose games vs. agree). One of the reasons I grew up a Reds fan is I preferred the strategy of pitchers hitting in the NL. As the decades have passed, fewer and fewer pitchers can hit well (or even bunt). The pitcher’s spot has become a pause in the game. Moreover, nearly every level uses the DH now. Times have changed, and I agree, a little extra action is helpful. That said, I think both sides will be closely tracking the monetary value of changes from their own perspective. Every analysis I’ve read indicates the universal DH results in a small, but not insignificant monetary gain for MLBPA.

    • Hotto4Votto

      The DH favors both the players and owners, which is why it is the one thing they agree on. Bringing the DH brings more offense to a game that is increasingly seeing strike outs rise and pitchers offer less than their already low offensive output. More offense makes the game more exciting, equating to more interest from fans. That’s why the owners want it. The players want it for the reasons listed by others above, largely extending careers of veterans.

  6. Votto4life

    Generally, I favor the players in these of negotiations, but It’s really hard to champion either side.

    A league consisting of the have and have nots is not in anyone’s self interest.

    • TR

      I don’t see that either side is really suffering. Just compromise and play the game.

  7. Old-school

    Bob Castellini doesnt like April baseball anyway in cincinnati as its a losing business proposition x for Opening Day

    With Covid exploding, owners gladly will delay spring training a month and cancel April regular season and cut payroll by a month. These “negotiations” are just show. The real
    Issue is who blinks when May starts to get cut. I think the players do

    Big Bob doesnt make money till memorial day

    • Doug Gray

      Bob and the other owners lose plenty of money when a game isn’t played. This isn’t like 2020 when there won’t be fans.

    • Alex

      If the Reds are as broke as they are constantly saying than they desperately need games to be played. I’m actually curious if the COVID season cut out some owner leverage. I would assume the Reds aren’t the only team who need money coming in. By the same token, keeping young talent cheap is something all the owners can agree on.

  8. old-school

    It seems like the universal DH and expanded playoffs are a given.
    It seems like increasing the minimum player salary 7% would be easy and same with luxury tax. Establishing a salary floor would be a good thing but hard to see owners agree.
    Modifying incentives for tanking and lessening compensatory draft picks for FA shouldn’t be that hard.
    Manipulating service time is a tougher issue to pin down.
    A quicker path to arbitration and FA seems like the biggest obstacle to overcome and probably the reason ST wont start on time. I could see both parties digging in for that.

    • David

      I think that a group of commenters here could probably put together a pretty reasonable CBA for both the owners and players. But, I don’t think we will get consulted on this.
      Over the years, the revenue for baseball and the value of the team franchises has steadily increased. The reason is the value of marketing sports (overall) as entertainment, and the willingness of fans to pay for entertainment.
      At some point, the value of the entertainment could fall below the cost of buying such entertainment (and I don’t know where that number is), but the reason we have this incremental “give and take” between owners and the MLPA is…they don’t know either. They may have confidential studies on this, but the bottom line is, I think they guess where it is.
      The players want “more”, to quote the old labor truism. They want a bigger slice of the pie, more salary, shorter time to arbitration and free agency, etc.
      The owners want to hold on to “more”, give less in free agency, control players, pay less in payroll.
      If the entertainment value of MLB grows, then everybody could win. But neither side quite sees it that way. And holding out and screwing up the baseball season is a good way to lessen interest in the game.
      Another aspect of the DH, is that teams may not carry as many pitchers, because there will not be the need to change a pitcher (when he would come to bat), just being down a run or two. Teams will use their starters longer (on average) and relievers less, with the DH. And a DH is not always some older player who no longer fields well. Some teams use it to “rest” everyday players, and there are certainly players that can hit but have a glove that clanks in the night. Travis Hafner , late of the Indians is one player that comes to mind like that.

      • BK

        One of the things most frustrating as a fan is that past CBAs have failed to address competitive balance–a huge part of the product. For example, I don’t understand the players desire for less revenue sharing. We would never stand for one team’s strike zone to be 6 inches wider than the others, but we’re okay with one team being able to spend almost double what one-third of the league can spend. In reality, I think the larger market owners like their built-in advantage, too and it doesn’t hurt that a lot of the national writers grew up in major markets.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Whether this is entirely accurate or not, the impression I get is that the players are against increased revenue sharing because it allows small market and tanking teams to pocket money while not paying to put a good product on the field. If revenue sharing caused smaller market teams to spend more, consistently, I don’t think it would be an issue. But the problem is, we’ve seen time and time again that this isn’t necessarily the case. The big spenders will spend regardless of revenue sharing. The players would like to see every team spend more to compete (and the bigger spenders to spend more). Teams like the Orioles, Marlins, and Pirates (among others) aren’t spending consistently to be competitive but are still bringing in solid profits due to revenue sharing regardless of the product on the field.
        This appears to be at the root of many of the issues. Draft lottery for 8 vs 3 teams is about incentivizing teams to spend more to be competitive rather than tank for draft order. Raising the tax line is about incentivizing top spenders to consider spending more rather than treating the line as a soft cap. Not expanding the playoffs all the way to 14 incentivizes owners in the middle of the pack to continue to spend to improve their roster (though the players are willing to concede some expansion of playoffs). The belief is owners won’t have to spend as much to be competitive if almost half the teams makes the playoffs (and even more will be in the race longer increasing fan interest/revenue).
        Revenue sharing increases the owners piece of the pie, but that doesn’t always correlate to the players getting theirs.

  9. west larry

    I think the owners need to sweeten the pot for the players to agree to 14 (or a 16) team format in the playoffs. What if all extended play off games would increase the amount of pension the players received or lowered the pension eligibility by one year? That would seem to benefit the major league players that never achieved stardom.

    • BK

      By most objective measures, the Owners have captured an increasingly larger share of revenue over the last two CBAs. While COVID cut into their share a bit, I’m guessing they know they will have to “sweeten the pot” or the players won’t sign.

      I think expanding the playoffs can provide a mechanism to do just that. I’d like to see new revenue streams such as an expanded playoff accompany a salary floor. I’d focus on having most thrifty teams up their spending rather than raising the CBT levels. I think this would go a long way to restoring baseball’s middle class and get both player and owner revenue growth tracking on more similar growth curves.

      Expanded playoffs will need to be thoughtfully done so as to incentive both strong opening day rosters and good September playoff races.

      A salary floor should come with CBT penalties such as teams forfeiting international signing pools or draft picks for not meeting the minimum. Even less competitive teams can boost their payroll and future fortunes by trading for bad contracts coupled with good prospects.

  10. AllTheHype

    What I don’t get is….one of the player’s union arguments is for competitive balance……and increasing the number of playoff teams would advance that goal by incentivizing teams to compete for a greater number of spots. So why is the player side wanting to limit playoff teams to 12?

    • David

      I think (sure, I imagine I can think) that they might consider too many play-off teams to dilute the interest and value of the playoffs, etc.
      Everybody shouldn’t get a prize just for showing up and playing 162 games and winning just 81.
      But as Doug said, more playoff games SHOULD mean more revenue. It all depends on how it is marketed and who (which network) buys the rights to show the games.

      As BK indicated, the owners seem to have captured MORE of the growing revenue from the last two CBA agreements. I take his assertion as true, I can’t prove it.

      I think the following things could make the game better.
      1) A higher salary floor
      2) Fewer years to arbitration and free agency
      3) More compensation for the teams that lose players to free agency, either in financial rebates from the team that signs away your free agent, or in more draft picks.

      Earlier free agency is a disincentive to small and mid market teams that actually draft well and have good minor league development.
      But I think the biggest actual impediment is that the owners appear as a monolith, and the commissioner actually works for the owners. I think there is probably a lot of disagreement about policy among the owners, etc. but they aren’t breaking ranks to actually seek their own team and franchise best interest.

    • Westfester

      I wouldn’t conclude that expanded playoffs is necessarily good for the players. A counterargument to expanded playoffs is that teams won’t be incentivized to spend. Instead of winning around 85-87 games to make the playoffs the standard is now just win 79-81. That means there’s no reason for owners to open the pocketbook to pay for better players that would put them over the hump. You could theoretically have teams with a losing record going on a heater in September and blundering into the playoffs.

      • Matt WI

        Agree, West. I think the dilution of the playoffs could be bad for the game. Less teams making trades b/c .500ish is “enough” to spin the wheel. There will be tv $, sure. But hard to imagine a lot of fan bases who aren’t selling out stadiums all season for .500 baseball suddenly show up on a Tues night in Oct for a 1st rd game. Weekends maybe.

  11. TR

    A month before Spring Training with many moves of the needle needed to eliminate the stoppage.

  12. Tom Reeves

    Eeeek – public cba negotiations add all sorts of elements that will make a settlement difficult.

    In any negotiation, where the parties anchor the negotiation very much impacts the final agreement. So, I don’t fault the owners for anchoring the negotiation where they did.

    It’s easy for us to get hung up in the details. The important thing for us is the sides are talking. And it would be even better if the sides were talking behind closed doors with no leaks. Leaks make this so much harder because everyone gets hung up on what’s fair and saving face.

    As far as who has the upper hand – I don’t see the players having much leverage. Anti-trust exemptions protect the owners from players starting their own league. Most of the owners can afford weather significant work disruption. The players, on average, have no BATNA.

    I think the owners will get most of what they want in this negotiation.

    And here’s something for the players to consider. Let’s say that pre covid, the players had somehow forced a changed in Congress to end the anti-trust exemption (a move in supportive of). So, pre-covid, the players form their own league and starve MLB of talent. There’s no way those player owned teams survive covid. The reason the MLB teams survived covid is that the owners are extremely wealthy.