Over the weekend the owners of Major League Baseball teams had their representatives present the Major League Baseball Players Association with a 130-page proposal. The players rejected the offer that did see a few minuscule improvements to their last offer. What the rejection means is that the start of spring training is not going to begin on time. And it makes it more and more likely that the regular season isn’t going to start on time, too, because the movement towards anything realistic from the ownership side of things has been at a snails pace in a marathon.
So what did the ownership side alter that seemed to move things in the right direction in their latest proposal?
The owners offered higher salaries for players in their first three years of big league time. Their offer would be for $615,000, $650,000, and $725,000 for each of a players first three seasons. The players are asking for league minimum to start at $775,000.
The two sides agreed in the past to a “pre-arbitration” bonus pool, but they were very far apart on how much money should be in that pool. The players initially asked for it to be $105M, while the owners offered $10M. That was bumped up to $15M to be spread out to the top 30 pre-arbitration players in the game.
How many times a player can be optioned in a year was also in the owners proposal. In the past a player could be called up and down as many times in a season as a team wanted as long as the player remained in the minors for 10 days between call ups (unless called up to replace an injured player). The owners put in a limit of five options within a single season. However, there is a secondary attachment to this one and it would be to give the league the ability to limit how many minor league players are allowed to be in an organization.
The movement on both of those things was tiny and the gap between where the owners are and where the players are remains monumentally large.
And then there’s the stuff that they offered that actually moved things in the wrong direction….
The owners made the absolute tiniest increase to the luxury tax threshold, raising it in increments that would total $8M more before the CBA ends. Of course with that tiny increase before penalties, MLB made the penalties for going over the luxury tax threshold significantly more harsh than in the past. If the revenue of baseball and the original luxury tax threshold remained in a constant relation with each other over the years the luxury tax number would be $100M higher than it is today. The players want the tax threshold to be much higher than the owners are proposing, looking for it to begin at $245M and go up from there over the years to $273M in 2026. The owners want it to end at $226M with this CBA, and they want to make the penalties so harsh that they almost dare someone to go beyond it. They want to go from basically a soft salary cap to an actual salary cap without calling it that.
Service time manipulation is something the players want to fix. Somehow, even though it was already in the rules that teams couldn’t do it, it’s almost impossible to prove unless the team is so stupid as to say they are actually doing it and so they’ve been able to get away with it for 40 years. Everyone knows it happens. The owners solution is to reward themselves with draft picks if they follow the previous rules and also get the best case scenario outcome. Owners now are offering themselves two extra draft picks if they keep a rookie up for a full season and that player finishes in the top 3 in the Rookie of the Year, or in the top 3 of the MVP or Cy Young Award voting within their first 3 seasons.
Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com has a good write up, with help from Joon Lee, about all of the bigger proposals from the latest offer from the owners.