Procrastination breeds absurdity when it comes to Major League Baseball labor negotiations
Sand crosses the hourglass for Major League Baseball. February 28and The deadline for an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement seems unlikely, which will delay spring training and the start of the 2022 regular season. A spokesperson for Major League Baseball confirmed the obvious by stating that regular season ball games would be canceled and not rescheduled to a later date. Ballplayers would also start losing paychecks. According to research by the Associated Press, baseball players could lose $20.5 million every day regular season ball games are canceled due to the lockdown.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) must quickly find an accelerated path to resolving key economic issues. One of the main objectives of the negotiations was the compensation of young ballplayers during their pre-arbitration years. Currently, Major League Baseball has increased the amount of the pre-arbitration bonus pool from $15 million to $20 million. They remain committed to distributing the money only to the top 30 ballplayers eligible for pre-arbitration. The MLBPA wants to see the pool set at $115 million and distributed to the top 150 ballplayers eligible for pre-arbitration.
In regards to creating a draft lottery like the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball has expressed a desire to adopt a system that focuses on the top four picks. The MLBPA would like to see a draft lottery that incorporates the top seven picks. By comparison, the National Basketball Association draft lottery only includes the top four picks. Competitive integrity is a serious concern for the MLBPA and so ball clubs are deeply committed to winning, regardless of their record or standings position. A logical compromise might be to create a draft lottery for the top five picks.
Major League Baseball has decided to withdraw its proposal asking the MLBPA for the option of reducing the size of minor league rosters. The national reserve roster is a concern given Major League Baseball’s desire for flexibility regarding the number of minor league ballplayers a major league ball club can have under contract. Although this topic has been temporarily removed from the negotiations, it will likely be revisited at some point in the future.
The number of times a ballplayer could be optioned in a season has been a topic of interest. Major League Baseball favored a maximum of five times but decided to remove this element from its proposal. The MLBPA has expressed comfort with a maximum of four times per season. There has been a focus on quality of life issues for ballplayers given the constant back and forth between major and minor league ball clubs.
The MLBPA believes there should be significant changes to the minimum wage structure and how quickly ballplayers can get to arbitration. Their latest proposal calls for an initial minimum wage of $775,000 with increases of $30,000 each season. If the collective agreement spans five seasons, the minimum wage for the 2026 season as requested by the MLBPA would be $895,000.
Major League Baseball countered with a $10,000 increase each season to their existing proposal. In 2022, the minimum wage would be $640,000 and by the 2026 season it would increase to $680,000. Note the minimum wage differences in Major League Baseball compared to the National Basketball Association, National Football League, and National Hockey League. Currently, Major League Baseball lags behind each of these leagues when it comes to minimum salaries for their ballplayers.
In terms of Super Two eligibility, the MLBPA made another slight tweak to its proposal. Instead of extending arbitration eligibility to 80% of ballplayers between two and three years of service, the MLBPA would be comfortable at 75%. Under the recently expired collective agreement, it was 22%. Ideally, Major League Baseball would like to reduce arbitration eligibility while the MLBPA is aggressively looking for ways to expand it. One has to wonder if Major League Baseball has genuine concerns about extending arbitration eligibility to more ballplayers, as it could result in additional hearings with umpires ruling in favor of ballplayers. ball.
Nothing significant was achieved after three afternoons of collective bargaining. In fact, procrastination has become wacky in nature. Incremental progress would have worked well in December and January if the negotiations had taken place every five days and if there had been a constant exchange of proposals. Major League Baseball initiated the lockout and now they are threatening to cancel regular season ball games in days. The only clarity we have is that neither side is acting with a great sense of urgency and serious damage is being done to baseball’s heartbeat.