One other modification to come out of yesterday’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations: MLB is no longer seeking the ability to dramatically limit the total number of minor league baseball spots in each organization (only shortly after dramatically reducing the total number of affiliated minor league teams).
Of course, withdrawing that request didn’t come in isolation. It comes paired with the players losing something they want:
Along with the withdrawal of the minor league playing jobs proposal, MLB pulled its offer to limit options to five. This is not insignificant. The constant shuttling between the big leagues and AAA is a quality-of-life issue for players, who have proposed a max of four options.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 22, 2022
On the one hand, it’s a good thing that MLB has withdrawn a request that was egregious and could’ve resulted in a further culling of the professional pool of players. It was a maddening request undoubtedly put forward by the cheapest of owners who don’t want to pay to support the sport.
… on the other hand, it was a request that the owners already had good reason to know the players would reject. So by pairing it with the limit on options within a season – something the players want – you could argue the whole thing was just a cynical attempt to take that issue off the table. I’m sure you can very loosely relate the two issues (fewer options within a season means some players are more likely to be forced onto big league rosters eventually, so fewer minor leaguers are needed (but, come on, how many guys are we actually talking about?)). But, in reality, they’re really two entirely separate things, and now the owners have magnanimously been able to pull their offer of something that would benefit the players by taking off the table something that was obviously awful and unacceptable all along.
I wonder if the players will stick to their request of four total options within a season* or if they will massage that element in some way. It isn’t a major ask when compared to the big three (luxury tax changes, increased arbitration eligibility, and reduced revenue sharing), but it certainly would help certain players – especially relievers – not get as screwed over as they often do.
Also, as Passan notes, the league still has the right to reduce the total number of players in future years if they want – they don’t explicitly need MLBPA approval, just as they didn’t when they reduced the affiliates – but that isn’t in the immediate plans. Of course, that just makes it seem all the more like MLB put this on the table only so they could later take it off.
*(Don’t mix up a player being optioned to the minors within a season with an “option year.” Currently, a player has a certain number of option years during which a team can shuffle the guy up and down from the minors as many times as they want (we call that individual move “optioning him to the minors”). In the proposed setup, you’d still have a certain number of option years, but *within* those option years, you could be optioned up and down only a set number of times before you would have to stick on the big league roster or, presumably, go on waivers.)