It’s November 27. Do you know where your Collective Bargaining Agreement is?
As you have been apprised many times over the past week, MLB’s current CBA with the Players Association expires on December 1, which is this Thursday. Although the hour is drawing late, and “lockout” sabers have been rattled, the best bet still remains that a new deal is done before the current agreement expires.
To that end, Jon Heyman reports that the sides took a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and will resume negotiations today. Further, Nick Cafardo notes that, even if a deal is not done by Thursday, it’s not a given that there will be a lockout or a strike. It’s still possible the sides will simply let the current deal keep governing things until a new CBA is finalized.
Where do things stand, according to Heyman and Cafardo? Well, among the issues to be resolved, and some of my thoughts:
- Draft pick compensation tied to free agency – will it stay? Will it go? Will it be reformed? From previous reports, and the current ones, it seems pretty clear that owners are hopeful that the MLBPA will see the dropping of draft pick compensation – and thus the introduction of truly and completely free free agency – will be valuable enough for the players will agree to an international draft, which is perhaps the other biggest issue on the table. Six months ago, if you’d asked me whether an international draft was coming, my 75% guess would have been yes. Now I’d call it 50/50 (at least in terms of what is initially implemented in the new CBA – even if owners don’t get the draft now, it won’t be completely off the table any time soon).
- (Although it’s never been discussed in public reports that I’ve seen, one way around this would be relaxing the bonus pool situation – in the domestic and (if it happens) international drafts – which would make teams much less loath to lose a draft pick to sign a player. It splits the baby a little bit, and I’d also think smaller market clubs would be more open to this approach than one that could put even more free agents further out of their reach.)
- Everyone seems to agree that the luxury tax limit is going to go up from its current $189 million, but the final figure is still being negotiated. It could be around $200 million, though, as you would expect, the players would like that number as high as possible. (If you’re unfamiliar with the luxury tax limit: if a team’s payroll exceeds that figure in a given year, there are certain taxes and revenue-sharing penalties imposed, depending on how many years in a row the team has exceeded the limit. It’s kind of like a soft salary cap.)
- Side note: is the luxury tax limit really going to increase only to $200 million? That’s an increase of barely 5%, despite league-wide revenues increasing annually in the 6% to 10% range over the past half decade. To be sure, the two items don’t necessarily have to keep pace with each other, and more than half of MLB’s teams don’t actually want the luxury tax limit to increase by too much (since they don’t usually approach it anyway). Still, if that limit stays at $200 million for the duration of the next CBA, and if the teeth it imposes stay the same (teams who are over the limit for a number of years in a row can lose a ton of extra money once the revenue-sharing calculations are factored in), it has the potential to feel really out of whack in a few years. Then again, maybe that’s the point – perhaps all teams are interested in a stronger salary-cap-like-thing.
- Somewhat related, the larger market teams want to see revenue-sharing altered, according to Cafardo, especially in light of (their belief that) some teams that collect revenue-sharing dollars aren’t putting it all back into their organization.
- One that we’ve heard before is the length of the season, as the players feel like it’s a grueling, condensed grind. We could see the length of the season extended by a few days (but sticking at 162 games), or Cafardo mentions the slim possibility that the schedule is reduced to 158 games. My guess is that there is some kind of change here – a longer season and/or maybe a few scheduled doubleheaders – but it probably won’t be a reduction in the schedule.
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