Today was simultaneously expected and surprising. Reps for the players and owners met today in New York for the players to share a written proposal in response to the owners’ “best” offer from Tuesday, which was met with a unanimous rejection by the players (and preceded the cancellation of the first two series of the year). The offer more or less looked like I was expecting, though the surprising bit was – contrary to earlier reporting – there was apparently no discussion of the 14-team playoff format.
Like I said this morning, I didn’t expect that to go anywhere anyway, but I was curious to see what a player proposal WOULD have looked like. We won’t know for today, because the player proposal was at 12 teams in the playoffs, which is what they’d strongly preferred previously.
As expected, there was not enormous movement in the player offer, but I think there are definitely some notable things:
More union proposal today:
• No change on CBT or minimums.
• If direct draft pick comp (qualifying offer) goes away, MLBPA now OK w/other CBT-related penalties (sometimes called non-monetary penalties)
• Some revenue sharing changes still on table for PA
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 6, 2022
The players are still at six teams in the lottery (owners were at five), and the proposed setups are different for each side, too. But that seems like among the more bridge-able gaps. The expanded playoff field is 12 teams.
To me, the most notable thing there in the player offer is the acceptance of non-monetary luxury tax penalties. All we’ve heard of so far is the loss of a second round draft pick for exceeding the second tier of the luxury tax, and then a loss of a first round draft pick for exceeding the third tier (in BOTH the domestic and international drafts). I’m going to tell you that if a team is going to lose its first and second round draft picks for going over the third tier of the luxury tax, *NO TEAM WILL EVER* go over the third tier. It will be a pure and complete hard salary cap. So if that’s what the penalties include, then the players today just offered a hard, hard, hard cap. That’s a major, major concession, and I feel like everyone out there is sleeping on it.
Your two big caveats there: (1) we don’t know what the non-monetary penalties look like, precisely, in the latest round of offers, because they haven’t been widely reported – we’re going based on the last time this was discussed publicly, which was a couple weeks ago at this point (so it’s possible they’ve changed); and (2) we don’t know yet how high that third tier is in the players’ proposal. We know that the first tier in the first year is at $238 million, since that’s the number that is talked about the most. But the precise levels in the player proposals for the second and third tiers have not been widely reported in the latest round of offers and counteroffers. It’s possible that third tier in the player proposal is suuuuuuper high (like, more than the Dodgers have ever spent, for example). If so, then you worry a little less about the third tier becoming effectively a hard cap.
Still, though, this concession concerns me a bit, and it makes me think all the more that the owners have to be ready to make a huge move on the actual CBT thresholds. I’m not sure they are or will, but I’m just saying what SHOULD happen.
Interestingly, the players accepted three of the possible rules changes, but NOT robo umps:
MLB originally proposed ability to implement all rule changes more expediently (45 days vs a year). Then narrowed that to: pitch clock, banning shift, bigger bases, ABS. Union accepted—as part of a package—that idea but withOUT robo umps. This would be for no earlier than 2023.
— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) March 6, 2022
I’m not quite sure why players wouldn’t be on board with robo umps, but I’ll set that aside for now because it was always likely that (1) it was coming eventually, but (2) not necessarily in the next year or two.
As for the other three, I haven’t exactly been subtle that I think they are good ideas. So, for the players to accept them, that’s good. I agree. Where I get ticked is that none of them can be implemented before 2023, at the earliest. One of the most important things for the sport to do this offseason was to get more aggressively moving on improving the pace and action of the sport. And … it is not going to happen for another year at least. What are we doing?
Overall, though, while I think it’s a little hard to say this offer marked huge movement on the strictly financial side, it’s even harder to argue there weren’t meaningful moves by the players. Rules changes and timeline as proposed by MLB? Accepted. Non-monetary CBT penalties? Accepted. Another bit shaved off the pre-arbitration pool? Gap closing.
But more than all that, the onus has been on the owners to make the next significant move. There’s a reason the players rejected that last offer and a reason virtually everyone who has opined on that offer – including many reporters who have otherwise seemed to be a little more owner-friendly – said it needed to be much better.
Where the intra-owner politics factor into the situation, well, that’s for the league and the larger block of owners to sort out. We know some owners are beefing about the CBT going up at all, let alone much more than their last offer. But that doesn’t mean the owners can’t move. It just means they need to figure out a way to keep at least 23 votes on board. Their next offer has gotta be a major move on the CBT, or this will just keep dragging on and on.
Which, as you know, might be the point, at least for a little while longer. We’ll see if the owners offer a more comprehensive response soon. The pace needs to pick back up, since games are being lost by the day. I understand why some owners actually want that to happen, but I’m just speaking as a fan: I don’t want any more games lost. One was too many.
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