Jeff Passan Offers a Substantial Status Check on What Isn’t Happening, and What Should Be Coming

I have to give it up to Jeff Passan. At a time when everyone acknowledges nothing is happening – there are no CBA negotiations between the owners and the players, and no one expects them any time soon – Passan still found a way to report and write something really compelling on the state of the lockout.

If you want a status check on all things MLB lockout and Collective Bargaining Agreement, this is your first read of the day:

The pulse check, which is based not only on Passan’s experience but also his communication with nearly 30 people intimately involved in the game, is a mix of practicality and pessimism (you won’t find much optimism about a deal happening before pain is inflicted (on the fans)). The parallels to the failed negotiations before the 2020 pandemic season are obvious and troubling – you’ll recall, not only did the sides not really reach a deal, the whole thing led to a still-pending grievance from the players about whether the owners negotiated in good faith to try to play as many games as safely possible. Of course there’s still acrimony, and that’s before you get into everything we’ve discussed about how badly things have gone for the players, relatively speaking, under the current CBA.

I don’t want to mince words: you will read Passan’s piece, and you will now presume Spring Training will not start on time in mid-February. I will go a step further and say that I’m now expecting Spring Training to be completely changed (i.e., this is going to get to the point where they’re going to have to do another BS three-week Spring Training on a whole new schedule), and the regular season may be bumped back or shortened.

If the expectation is that the sides won’t even seriously start negotiating until the end of January or start of February, then the calendar simply doesn’t work to get in a normal Spring Training AND time for free agency/transactions AND time for simple travel logistics. And if the calendar doesn’t work for all that, then you aren’t going to see Opening Day on March 31. (You’d think disrupting Opening Day festivities would be a huge pain point for owners, though. The fan reaction to even a delayed Opening Day is going to be significant. I’m not quite sure how they can’t see that.)

The article also could serve as a bit of “negotiating through the media,” as Passan gets into some hard specifics that he put together from his conversations with people on all sides of these talks. What’s interesting is that, he synthesizes the many hopes and demands from the sides into a realistic version of some of the principle points (with input from those involved, so it feels all the more realistic):

1. Raise minimum salaries to around $650,000 – a 14% bump

2. Add a performance bonus pool for pre-arbitration players

3. Implement the universal designated hitter

4. Expand the postseason from 10 to 14 teams

5. Remove indirect draft-pick compensation for free agents

6. Make significant changes to the draft to disincentivize tanking and reward small markets

7. Raise the CBT threshold into the $230 million-plus range and remove other restraints, including nonmonetary and recidivism penalties

As you can see, most of the points are what the players want, and in exchange, the owners get their expanded postseason and labor peace. I know there are a lot of divergent opinions on an expanded postseason, so I’m gonna set that aside for now and say only that it’s probably the number one “ask” from ownership, so it’s going to be coming in one form or another.

But what the players *don’t* get are two of the biggies: no earlier free agency, and no earlier arbitration. Yeah, the minimum salary gets a decent bump and there are bonuses available to pre-arb guys, but you could argue that this type of plan does very little to take care of the guys the MLBPA has theoretically been hoping to better serve this time around (i.e., the sport is so much more reliant on pre-arb and arb guys than it ever was, but this deal looks like it would mostly serve veteran players via free agency). I’m not saying it’s not still a passable deal, I’m just saying I’m not sure it is as focused on the younger players as it could be.

The draft changes would have to be seen and analyzed to fully appreciate – they aren’t going to go with The Gold Plan, even though they desperately should! – but if it serves as a benefit to smaller-market teams, then the luxury tax changes will need to be viewed by big-market teams as their way of staying level (i.e., spending more on players to make up for what they aren’t getting in the draft). Yes, I’m saying that because I’m already anticipating what will happen in the NL Central.

Anyway, read Passan’s piece for much more on this kind of proposal, and your temperature check on what isn’t happening right now. It’ll frustrate you, and make you wish all involved would read it, too, and think, “Hey, maybe we should start talking again?”

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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