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MLB News: The Five Key Topics Holding Up a New CBA

Another meeting is on the books for Tuesday between MLB and the MLBPA. As the lockout enters it third month, there’s growing concern that the light at the end of the tunnel is many miles away. The two sides have failed to find common ground on essentially every devisive topic as it pertains to the new CBA.

In their latest CBA update, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal say MLB starting spring training on time is “clearly in jeopardy”. The two MLB experts also walked through the five hot-button topics that are holding up the bargaining sessions.

Minimum Salary

MLB organizations have gotten wise to the fact that the younger, cheaper player are much more valuable than paying market value for an eight-year MLB veteran. The MLBPA has gotten the memo too. Increasing minimum salaries is right near the top of their CBA to-do list.

“The players have proposed increasing the minimum from $570,500 to $775,000. The owners have proposed that the players will earn $615,000 in their first year, $650,000 in their second and $700,000 in their third.”

Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pools

One of the few things the two have agreed on is instituting a “bonus pool” for top performing players who have fewer than three years of service time.

In an article last week, Drellich explained where the two sides stand on the how big the pool should be.

“Now, in the union’s version of this bonus pool, $105 million would be newly available to players. The league’s proposal Tuesday included less than a 10th of that, at $10 million.”

That one might take a few more meetings.

Luxury Tax/Competitive Balance Tax Threshold

The CBT irks the MLBPA because instead of balancing spending between big and small market teams, its acted as a salary cap.

“The threshold in baseball was intended to slow down the spending of teams like the Yankees and Dodgers, prevent them from signing all the biggest stars. Instead, it has served as a de facto cap for some clubs, helping limit salary growth. Therein lies the union’s concern.”

Draft Lottery System

NBA out there are well-versed in the draft lottery system. The top of the draft order is not fixed by order of finish in the standings. Finishing last doesn’t guarantee a team a top pick, but it does increase the chances of a team receiving the top pick via the lottery.

As in basketball, the idea is to prevent MLB teams from intentionally fielding non-competitive teams in order to ensure they get the best picks in the draft. For MLB clubs, a high draft pick represents a cost controllable asset with incredibly high upside. 

“Both sides would include all non-playoff teams in a lottery. The league wants only the top three picks in play. The union wants the top eight. And while that number probably is negotiable, the bigger fight might be over the union’s desire to reward additional picks to teams that reach certain levels of performance. The league wants no part of such a plan.”

Service-Time Manipulation

Much like tanking, service-time manipulation also falls under the intentionally not fielding a non-competitive team category. In the current system, teams are financially incentivized to not call up their best prospects even in the face of a glaring roster need until late-April.

“By keeping top young players in the minors longer, clubs can gain an extra year of control over them before they reach free agency.”

All the staunch disagreements on the topics above is what lead Rosenthal and Drellich to declare, “A new CBA is not close.”

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  1. I like the Draft Lottery idea to discourage tanking. I think the compromise is to also tie it into teams payroll ranking.

    All non-playoff teams are in a weighted lottery to determine the top 4 picks. No team is eligible to be in the lottery if their payroll is ranked in the bottom 4. No team is eligible to receive top 4 picks in consecutive drafts.

    Getting teams to spend more for players would certainly increase competition.

  2. Ya know, contrary to popular opinion the owners are not wrong on all of these issues. Sorry blogers and podcast hosts, it’s true. As I dissect these issues and read other articles on the subject it is abundantly clear that reasonable people could resolve this controversy. Money discussions always seem to bring out the worst in all of us. I’m so happy to hear that MLB suggested mediation. It is the wisest offer yet, although one could argue the issues are well defined. The task is to structure acceptable compromise among two arguably greedy sets of people.

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