Although this particular idea didn’t make it through, I very much like that the league and the players are thinking through potential ways to improve what has happened to the baseball offseason.
The last two years, thanks primarily to teams turning the luxury tax threshold into more of a salary cap than was ever intended, the MLB offseason has been an extremely protracted and contentious process, lasting deep in February. It creates an uncomfortable environment for players, a good bit less fun for the fans, and a lot less centralized attention for the sport.
To that end, then, the league reportedly proposed an idea that definitely would have changed everything on that front:
Major League Baseball proposed a signing deadline for multi-year contracts, to be put in at the winter meetings. The MLBPA rejected the proposal. Why: https://t.co/MKHfD0qr30
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) October 31, 2019
As you can see, the players rejected a flat deadline for multi-year contracts, because as much as they want signings to happen earlier, they also know that a deadline risks costing them leverage. Of course, you could make the counterargument, which we see every year at the Trade Deadline: sometimes, the ticking clock actually creates MORE leverage for the asset side of the equation, and could actually yield better contracts for players in the aggregate.
Scott Boras, who wields an outsized amount of authority in these negotiations given that he’s not technically part of the union or the league, suggests that a deadline could work, but only if there were *incentives* to sign players before the deadline, not a *prohibition* on multi-year contracts after the deadline. For example (his examples), small market teams could get an extra draft pick if they sign a multi-year player before the deadline (pretty easy to see how that could be gamed, though), and large market teams could have anyone they sign before the deadline not count against the luxury tax. Those ideas aren’t perfect in my view, but I like that this is being discussed.
These kinds of conversations will continue in the coming months. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement needs a pretty dramatic overhaul to improve competitive incentives for teams, earlier paydays for young players, and increased action on the field, among many other things. It lasts through the 2021 season, but because the needs are so great, MLB has been open to negotiating a new CBA even before the current one expires – something they’ve literally never done before. We’ve already seen some fruits from that process in the rules changes rolling out last year and next year, but economic issues have – so far – not gotten very far.