Major League Baseball owners seem to have a bit of a funny dictionary. When they first announced they were locking out the players they stated they did so to jump start negotiations. Then they took 43 days to submit an offer to the players association. More recently they announced that the deadline to stop them from cancelling games was February 28th. That was extended to March 1st after an all-night bargaining session seemed to make some progress, but nevertheless a deal never came and Rob Manfred announced that the first two series of the season were cancelled. Of course, he can’t actually cancel the games, he can merely postpone them. The length of the season must be negotiated with the players. Monday they announced a new deadline – Tuesday – for a new agreement to be reached for a 162-game schedule to happen according to Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The two sides met on Monday and depending on who you ask, things either went forward or things went backwards. Ownership upped the monetary offer on a higher luxury tax threshold starter, going from $220M to $228M and having it rise to $238M in the final year. However, that seems to come with unknown at this time attachments (which in the past were severe punishments for going over the luxury tax). The players most recent offer on the luxury tax was to begin at $238M and finish at $263M in the final year with the penalties for going over remaining the same as they were in the last agreement. The owners see this as good because it moves the number higher. One anonymous player told The Athletic that the discussions “tilted too far in the league’s favor” during Monday’s meeting.

Going back to the deadline of today as suggested by the owners, according to Evan Drellich the owners not only threatened the length of the season with the deadline, but also full pay and a full year of service time. I say threatened because those things must be negotiated and agreed upon by the owners and the players.

It’s tough to read this as anything but bad news. If this threat has some legs to it, if the players don’t agree to a deal by tonight, then it sounds like the fight would be even tougher because the players aren’t going to agree to a deal to start 2022 without getting a full year of service time when they were the ones locked out of playing. They were the side trying to get to free agency earlier. They were the side trying to get players to arbitration earlier. Both of those things are directly related to service time. Taking away service time is going to be a non-starter.

The expectation is that if a deal isn’t reached later today that there’s going to be another set of games “cancelled” by Major League Baseball. But, remember, the owners don’t have the power to actually cancel games – just postpone them.

40 Responses

  1. Stock

    Number of games lost in the previous 3 lockouts: 0
    Number of games lost in the previous 5 strikes: 1,700+
    Number of post seasons lost in the previous 3 lockouts: 0
    Number of post seasons lost in the previous 5 strikes: 1

    History shows that lockouts are better because players have learned that the way to maximize their leverage is to miss games and even the entire post-season.

    A lockout is in the best interest of baseball. If not for this lockout the players probably would have struck in August and threatened the post-season.

    The players a suggesting things such as a very large increase in the competitive balance tax and a decrease in revenue sharing. As is now the Mets are willing to spend 2 – 8 times more than half of the teams in baseball. I would not be surprised if the Mets 2023 salaries topped $300 million. They just don’t care. It is hard to compete with a team that does this. The more the luxury tax escalates the less likely a team like the Reds will be able to compete. 50% of the teams not having a realistic chance of competing is not good for baseball.

    • BK

      I agree that Cohen’s presence is a factor. His personal wealth last estimated at $15.9B. Keep in mind the Blue Jays are owned by a corporation. Cohen’s wealth is about triple the next owner. He has the personal wealth to poor money into payroll year over year–he’s really the only one at this level.

      He bought the Mets at the height of uncertainty during the pandemic. I’m totally speculating, but I believe he won approval of the other owners by paying a premium over the actual value of the franchise. He has a checkered past and faced opposition from NYC’s mayor because of it. He’s already shown a willingness to take spending to a new level and he’ll be in place for a while.

  2. Jimbo44CN

    This continuing lockout is going to drive fans from the game, period. At this point I have no sympathy for the players, especially the higher paid ones. Sorry, I love baseball, but this is all about greed, not fairness.What the players want in a higher CBT will do nothing but make the league lop sided. Forget about watching your team in the World Series or even the playoffs unless you live in New York, LA, Chicago or Boston.

    • Stiv

      I am not a financial wizard by any means. My question to ALL of the players would be, why did they vote down having a floor and a ceiling for payroll. Wouldn’t it be more logical having all teams with a minimum salary as well as a maximum salary? Would that minimize tanking and create more parity in the league?
      It was my understanding the owners proposed this and it was immediately shot down.

      • Stock

        I agree Stiv. It would also increase player salaries because the Pirates would have to spend another $50 million a year. Whereas, the cap does not require teams to increase spending it just makes it easier for large market teams to do so.

        In other words, the players proposal reduces competitive balance without increasing payroll that much. The floor would increase the overall payroll by a large amount but not impact the competitive balance.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Because it wasn’t a good deal for the players. The salary cap (I don’t believe it was a tax which can still be surpassed with penalties) was at $180m, which is $58m less than what the players currently want and $48m less than what the owners are currently offering. The floor was set at $100m which would make a difference for some teams, but the majority of teams already spend more than that anyway. I’m also not sure that there were any escalators built in, or if that was to be the same numbers throughout the CBA. Which obviously no escalators to keep up with revenue would be a no-go.
        If the owners offered a $230m cap and a 150m floor with escalators built in to more accurately reflect revenue growth then I think the players reaction would be a lot different.

      • BK

        @Hotto, I believe the proposal was for a $180M CBT level (essentially a soft cap).

      • Redsvol

        Preach @Jimbo & Stock. Players – get back to playing, you make more than enough playing a game while the rest of us cringe every time we go the grocery store or the gas station!

      • 2020ball

        Why any of you would rather the owners had that money instead boggles my mind. The players are making nothing compared to them.

      • Redsvol

        @2020, I guess I see reason for my siding with the owners due to looking at the details of previous CBA with the current proposals. The owners have proposed to give a lot of new pay and benefits to the lower paid players. The Union’s most important ask seems to be moving the Tax threshold – which only benefits the most highly paid. So we’re talking about the Max Sherzer and Gerrit Cole’s making 50 million per year instead of 40 million per year on the next contract. I don’t see how this benefits baseball.

        On the flip side, I believe the franchises need to be run like a business. Just because franchises grow in value doesn’t mean they have that as free cash flow to give to players. Case in point, the only open book MLB franchise, the Atlanta Braves, won the world series and had profit of $104 million in 2021. This is a team that had a brand new ball park, a very young team and won the whole thing after having 18 home playoff games. Of course they should make a healthy profit. But they can’t count on winning the world series and having that many home playoff games each year. They also lost $50 million in the catastrophe known as 2020.

        I think many MLB owners are stupid and antiquated in the way they run their franchises. But I also think they deserve to make a reasonable profit because it is the owner that takes the lions share of the risk in any privately held business.

      • Doug Gray

        Redsvol – the only risk MLB team owners have is that they owned the team during a once in a hundred year plague. They work in a legal monopoly with anti-trust exemption and get half-billion dollar offices built for them for free.

      • BK

        That’s not true. The CBA works very well for a few teams. It gets progressively worse for others based on their market size. The Athletic posted an article detailing the success of teams as measured by playoff appearances and playoff success over the last 10 and 20 years. The non-competitive landscape is a risk to a number of franchises. For those with Athletic subscriptions here’s the link (spoiler alert: large market teams dominate the top of the list, it almost perfectly correlates with each teams’ market value):

        You may have missed it, but there is also a pretty serious war in Europe. One of the world’s nuclear powers launched its fourth and largest invasion under its despot. Global instability poses risk. The notion that major sports franchises will never lose money is laughable–no one predicted the impacts of the COVID pandemic and I guarantee you won’t predict the next crisis either.

  3. Vada

    Doug, as a way to get a better picture of the MLBs and MLBPAs positions let me put the following out for discussion.

    Let’s imagine a Trillionaire buying the Reds. The first objective is to payroll $5 Billion the first year. The goal: to sign EVERY Free Agents on the market by paying unbelievable salaries. Which side of the current negotiations would love this possibility? The MLBPA or the MLB? Now I ask,, WHO loses out from this scenario? I think the answers are obvious. Is this where the MLB and MLBPA are taking us? I don’t think something like this is impossible to happen in the future. If it’s ALL ABOUT $$$ then let’s just admit it and let those with the least amount of $$$ (the fans) in the game decide the matter.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    I’m so sick of the owner’s mouthpiece. Nothing but lies and manipulations through the media. Threatening things they can’t actually take away, moving the goal posts. I’m so disgusted by the owners and it’s been growing since they failed to negotiate anything in good faith in 2020. It’s getting to the point that I, like many other fans, are drifting away from a game that has been a part of my entire life.

    • BK

      He has a real pattern of being disingenuous which has soured most in the media and drowns out the Owners’ ability to articulate the logic behind their positions with the public. The Owners must really trust the insight he brings as a labor attorney, but as a spokesman he doesn’t help their cause one bit.

    • Stock

      I am not sure this changes your mind Vada but Doug is wrong when he says the players get paid for games missed due to the lockout. Any game missed the players will not be paid for unless the players negotiate this into the agreement.

      That said everything is part of the negotiation. How many games will be played this year is part of the negotiation whereas last week it was locked in at 162 games. The players may negotiate partial pay for games less than 162 but that is not a given.

      On an extreme note, if there are 0 games played this year the players make nothing.

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t believe I said the players get paid for games missed.

  5. CFD3000

    Most of what the players are asking for seems reasonable and, more importantly, healthy for baseball – except for the increased CBT thresholds. I understand why they want that increase, but as it primarily benefits players who are already making “set for life in a year” money, I’m not in favor. I don’t agree that higher highest payrolls will somehow encourage or force other teams to spend more and compete better. I don’t think it will increase competitiveness. I really wish the players would drop or seriously reduce this ask, then push hard on minimum salary, pre-arbitration bonus pool, and other adjustments to improve competitive balance.

    On the flip side the owners need to acknowledge that they got the big piece of the wishbone with the last CBA and have a really great deal right now. Let the players know that your current CBT offer is a hard line, but give them everything else they want (maybe with tiny concessions to save face). In return, get expanded playoffs and even more income than you conceded. It’s past time to resolve this embarrassing and insulting standoff. Nobody loses if a deal gets done, regardless of the details. Some may win a little less, but the alternative is indeed a disaster for both sides, and the fans, and the game. Get it done. #Play162

  6. Mark Moore

    I’m with you, Doug, in seeing this as a threat. Poor negotiating tactics in my opinion. And I don’t think they’ll strike a deal by tonight either. Makes you wonder if the NEXT “deadline” will be along shortly.

  7. LDS

    Following the MLBPA concessions over the weekend and the MLB’s comments that the players moved backwards, I question whether the owners and the league actually want a deal.

    • Stock

      From what I saw the only step forward by the players was the concession to change the rules on shifts, have bigger bases and a time clock be added.

      I am not sure conceding on such minor non-financial details is moving forward and therefore should be considered moving backward because time is ticking.

      Compare it to basketball. 5 minutes left and down by 10. Four minutes pass and with 1 minute on the clock you are down by 9. You got closer, but your chances of winning are much slimmer.

      • Doug Gray

        The players have been making concessions at every step. The owners haven’t. The fact that the players made ANOTHER one, even if it was small, matters.

      • BK

        “The players have been making concessions at every step. The owners haven’t.”

        The latter part of this statement is simply not true. Both sides have offered changes, although most have been incremental (small). Yes, small changes absolutely matter.

        I would offer that the Players started with some pretty radical “asks”: for example, reducing free agency reserve period by a full year, beginning arbitration a full year earlier. These types of “asks” were simply posturing, just like instituting a lockout to “jumpstart negotiations” and then waiting 6 weeks too actually make an offer was posturing. Both sides wasted months in posturing–a new agreement should have been in place prior to the expiration of the 2016 CBA. Both sides missed the opportunity the pandemic provided to establish a better working relationship. Neither side should get a pass for this.

      • Redsvol

        Doug – I know you’re smart, but a simple look at the previous CBA compared to the latest exchanged proposals show that MLB has moved on several important topics. MLB trade Rumors has a nice synopsis.

        I know you need the players grace for content but you owe your loyal readers something too. Saying the players have made concessions on every point makes no sense. Its like asking for 100 million dollars from someone who has no intention to do so and then lowering the ask to 90 million dollars and saying you made a concession.

      • Doug Gray

        I’m not going to argue with you guys on this – nearly every single person who covers this for a living is on the same page: Until tonight, one side has actually been negotiating in good faith and making real concessions and then the other side is the owners.

      • BK

        What got posted below, was meant to be here.

    • LDS

      Those of you defending the owners aren’t looking at things like the growth of revenues, the owners’ manipulation of service time, the elimination of minor league affiliates, etc. The owners crying over costs, which are passed on to fans and depreciated on their taxes, is rather disingenuous. And it’s rather bad optics on a day when MLB announces yet another chunk of change coming in from Apple.

  8. old-school

    I said it 3 months ago and Ill say it again.
    BC -with this team and these contracts and cold bad april baseball attendance- doesnt want to pay players until Memorial Day. Many other owners in KC and Detroit and Oakland and elsewhere probably feel the same way. They are going to exact retribution for 2021 player full pay while attendance restrictions.

    It would’ nt bother me if they only played 144 games and didn’t start the season until April 15 every year

    • Stock

      Agreed old school. I think there is a limit to number of games missed before the owners take a hit with Television revenue. That may impact the owners negotiation decisions and give the players some much needed leverage.

  9. MBS

    Apple and MLB made some big news today. A snippet from apples website. It looks pretty cool, the big inning show should be good.

    CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA Apple and Major League Baseball (MLB) today announced “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader with live pre- and postgame shows that will be available to fans in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+ as soon as the regular season begins.
    In addition to “Friday Night Baseball,” fans in the US will be able to enjoy “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season. Baseball fans in the US and Canada will also have access to a new 24/7 livestream with MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and more, as well as a full complement of on-demand programming, including highlights and MLB-themed original content.

    • Andy

      It’s news but I’m not hyped much. I want to watch the Reds, not game of the week. Still not willing to pay for cable package and also not buying sub that blocks all Reds game. Still waiting for over-the-air free local market games every Sunday… you know, like the NFL. I would subscribe to appleTV if all Friday night games were included, but will probably pass if it’s just 2 games. Won’t likely be Reds often.

      • MBS

        I hear you, it will be free to watch (no sub required), at least for now. I’m sure they will charge in the future. Also no blackouts for local markets.

        I’m more excited about the highlight show. I don’t have mlb network, or ESPN, so I don’t get to watch a baseball tonight like program.

  10. Steve D

    If the season doesn’t start until June could you really see the owners paying the players full salary when they missed over 1/3 of the season. I just can’t see that happening and if the players will only take full salary that means the longer this drags on the more likely that we don’t have a 2022 season.

  11. Bdh

    So much more movement in the owners side than the players. It’s already clear the players saying they wanted to help the small market teams was BS but If they don’t accept this latest offer from MLB it’s clear they just don’t want to play

  12. BK

    The reporting speaks for itself on this and it’s consistent across all national outlets: once they actually started negotiating, both sides have offered small, incremental changes. It’s also not unusual to see parts of the overall offer go backwards as various tradeoffs are proposed. This is not at all unusual in negotiations.

    Waiting to negotiate until well past the CBA deadline was the problem and both sides rhetoric for the last several months has indicated they were spoiling for a fight. This contract is far too complex to negotiate in one or two weeks. The worst part is in the end, neither side will be happy because the basic framework is sub-optimal at best and they’ve missed another opportunity to forge collaborative path.

    P.S. without even a moment of fuss, the NFL salary cap just guaranteed their players $320M over the 2020 (pre-COVID) level. Until the players approach the Owners and ask for what is CLEARLY working for others in their industry, they ARE part of the problem, certainly not ALL of the problem, but definitely part of the problem.

  13. Rednat

    so far i like what is being proposed on the field.

    getting rid of the shift, oversized bases, maybe limiting pick off attempts. these moves would benefit the smaller market teams. the game today is all about purchasing power. whoever can purchase the most home runs tend to win the most games. and home runs are pretty darn expensive these days. the game basically has been that dumbed down.

    at least with the new rules teams could find different ways to win at a much lower cost. just think of the 1985 cardinals (300 plus stolen bases,89 home runs). (my favorite all time non reds team). you could recreate a team like that at a relatively low cost in today’s game.