The CBA expired and now we wait.
We’ve known this day was likely coming for some time. The date of the now expired CBA has been known for awhile and after the animosity of the negotiations to get back to playing in 2020, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that there would be a work stoppage this offseason. It’s been a long time since there’s been a work stoppage, so it’s obviously a little bit jarring, but ultimately, I’m not terribly worried about much of anything as far as the baseball season is concerned.
I’ll never lock you out.
It is interesting how many people have been very doom and gloom about what’s now a reality. This is the ninth work stoppage in MLB history and the fourth lockout. The difference between a lockout and a strike is important. The owners lock out the players. The players go on strike. This is a lockout. The CBA expired and the owners didn’t have to do this, but according to Rob Manfred, they decided unanimously to go this route in the interest of speeding up the negotiations.
If you’ve read me at all or follow me on Twitter (you should!), you’d know that it’s going to be very difficult to get me to side with the owners on much of anything. It’s a battle of billionaires vs. millionaires, so neither has any concern for you or me (unless you’re one of the billionaires or millionaires), but I’d much rather the people providing the entertainment get their share of the pie that they deserve.
The biggest thing that’s being fought between MLB and the MLBPA is basically economics. The players feel that analytics has led to fewer non-star players getting paid. They end up hitting free agency too late to get a deal they may have gotten 15-20 years ago because contracts are more determined by future value than past value than they used to be. So with that in mind, once key point the players are bargaining for is shorter team control to ensure players hit free agency earlier. They also want to eliminate the concept of tanking because that limits the earning power as well when only some of the teams are actually trying to win. There’s more, but without being privy to any of the conversations, I’d hate to get it too wrong here.
Some things we’ve seen thrown around are free agency being granted after a player is 29.5 years old at the latest. We’ve seen a salary floor proposed and the players also want the Competitive Balance Tax limit raised from its current $210 million. Numbers have been thrown around, but I obviously don’t know what they are outside of reporting and that led to an impasse that led Rob Manfred to put out this statement that I think is absolute garbage.
Read it or don’t. I wanted to provide it, but you can honestly save yourself the time. He cited the money spent in free agency over the last month as a reason why the players have nothing to complain about, but most of that money wasn’t spent on the guys they’re negotiating to get more for. It’s basically an exercise in finger-pointing doing what the owners do very well, controlling the message.
I get it if you look at what players are making and think they’re greedy for wanting more, but what I keep coming back to is that money is going into someone’s pocket that isn’t yours. I’d personally rather the players providing the entertainment get their share of it rather than the owner we never see who has a franchise that will rise in value no matter what happens on the field. Look at the Royals as an example. David Glass bought the team nearly 22 years ago for $96 million and then sold the team at the end of the 2019 season for more than $1 billion. That’s quite an investment.
And we didn’t get here in one fell swoop. Recent labor agreements have favored the owners and incrementally, the CBA has leaned more and more to that side. My hope here is that the players agree with Collin McHugh in that the players know this didn’t all shift this way at once and they can’t try to get it all back at once because if they do, it will result in lost games.
As of right now, I’d be very, very surprised if even spring training reporting is impacted by this. Here’s my prediction: You won’t hear much for the rest of the year. You’ll get restless. You’ll think that baseball is never coming back. Hopefully in Kansas City we’ll be comforted by another Chiefs Super Bowl run, but maybe not. And then they’ll start talking sporadically for a couple weeks into mid-January before meetings pick up and I’d bet on a deal by February 1. Three months is a long time for rosters on MLB.com to look like this:
But I think ultimately this will end up as a good thing for the sport. I think there will be some change, yes, but I think this will do something to at least start to reset the issues between the players and the owners.
Oh, and here’s a few thoughts on what I’d do if I had a chance to be a part of this:
Salary floor of $100 million by 2024 with a caveat. If a team is able to win, say, 170 games in 2022 and 2023 with a decrease from 2022 to 2023 of no more than 10 percent, their payroll floor is $85 million. They have to maintain that 170 wins over two seasons without a 10 percent win decrease in the second season or else their floor rises to $100 million like everyone else. That floor increases by 5 percent every third season.
CBT of $225 million. It’s currently $210 million, the players want $240 million. Compromise. It’s fun.
If they insist on expanding the postseason, only add one team. Let five and six battle it out in a two-game series that takes place at the better team’s home park. If the home team wins game one, it’s over. The road team has to win both games. Then the winner of that series (or game) plays the fourth seed in a double header with the same situation. If they insist on seen teams, do a Final Four situation where 4 plays 7 and 5 plays 6 and then the winners play each other for the right to go to the ALDS against the best team in the league.
Players reach free agency after five seasons. The first two years are club controlled monetarily and the final three are arbitration years. But, teams can control a player for a sixth year on a similar deal to the franchise tag in football. They have the right to keep that player for the average of the top eight salaries at that player’s position for position players and the top 24 salaries for pitchers. They cannot access that sixth year if the player would be 32 or older in that season.
I’m not sure how to change tanking, but I sort of like the idea of the best non-playoff team getting the top pick while the worst team gets the last pick before the playoff teams start drafting. I need to workshop that a little.
So those are some of my thoughts on the current lockout and what I’d do. Like I said, I wouldn’t worry too much about lost games just yet. It might get there, sure, but it seems pretty unlikely to me given some conversations I’ve had. So, for now, just enjoy that sweet, sweet Taylor Clarke signing.
Why Keep O’Hearn?
After the non-tender deadline on Tuesday night when the Royals chose to tender a contract to Ryan O’Hearn, that was the number one question among Royals fans. My answer is “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. It makes zero sense. If you want to know what the Royals are thinking, the answer is that no matter what the stats tell you or the eye test or anything else, the Royals think differently. That doesn’t make it right or smart or anything like that, but it’s the reality of the situation. His projected arbitration number of $1.4 million is too much. Honestly, the fact that he’s taking up a roster spot as a first baseman who isn’t good defensively and can’t hit makes minimum salary too much, but by tendering him a contract, they’ll be on the hook for at least 1/6 of that contract if and when they do finally release him to create a spot on the 40-man roster for someone else.
That’s a position where you can find guys, but more than that, it’s a position where the Royals are well stocked. They have Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier at the big league level. No matter what you think of either, both are better than O’Hearn. They have one of their top prospects in Nick Pratto knocking on the door. MJ Melendez is another top prospect and first base might be an occasional home for him. And Vinnie Pasquantino is right behind both of them after his big minor league season in 2021. So yes, the answer to the question that has been asked so many times is that there isn’t a good, rational explanation. While I had hoped they’d move on when the calendar allowed them to without any penalty, that didn’t happen, so now it’s just a countdown to when they actually realize their mistake and have to pay extra to correct it.