Throughout this lockout – well, particularly the last month or so – I’ve thought a lot about my responsibility to be a filter for the reader. I’m not saying it’s some grand assignment or anything like that, but I do want to make sure I don’t share information without providing enough context for you all to know where I think things *REALLY* stand in the negotiations. If you’re at all like me, there have just been too many fits and starts and hopes and gut-punches to feel like any “deadline” is meaningful at this point.
Today is another “deadline.” But my caveat at the top is there to remind you – and myself – that nothing that follows is me suggesting that I expect the deadline to matter. It is still the most likely outcome that multiple more games of chicken are coming, and this might became a weekly thing: deadline on Tuesday, another week of games cancelled on Wednesday. Any individual Tuesday where you believe ‘THIS IS THE DAY!’ is the same Tuesday that someone successfully sells you a bridge.
But, of course, it’s my gig to share the information as we have it, and offer up my thoughts. So, here’s the latest.
If there is no deal by tonight, MLB says it’ll cancel another week of games. And it’s a carrot-stick deadline, since MLB is reportedly offering to make up the already cancelled games if a deal is done by tonight – effectively, MLB is telling the players if they make a deal today, they get full 162-game pay (carrot); if no deal, then they will lose at least two weeks’ pay (stick). That’s about 7.5% of the season, or a loss of $300 million for the players. (The loss of pay and/or service time would be subject to a fight down the road, mind you, but that’s the implied threat from MLB today.)
What MLB is doing is betting that the players might, today, decide that ensuring they get that $300 million (plus any other potential future losses) is more than they might make up in the CBA if they hold out another couple weeks or months. By the math, the owners are probably right on that (though they also stand to start losing out pretty significantly when they have to start rebating broadcasting money in late April). In other words, the owners – who have already gotten the players to give up every significant ask – are still in the mode they have seemingly been in since November: either they get another massive CBA win, or they happily lose April games. Nothing has changed on that front. Now it’s just more specific and tangible, because the offers from each side have narrowed, and we know that a specific week or two of games is on the table today.
I don’t like any of it. I don’t like how any of this negotiation has gone, and I don’t like the idea that the players are now between a rock and a hard place. Most of all, I don’t like how I find myself hoping that a deal just gets done today, no matter the cost. I’m a fan after all, and I just want baseball. Like an idiot, I keep hoping that the owners will finally tee up a deal I could responsibly describe as “fair,” but we have yet to see anything even approaching that.
It’s just another reminder of how this whole situation sucks. I don’t even know if an entirely “good” outcome is possible today. We’ll see what happens and evaluate from there.
But again: the information available to us since November suggests a deal today is highly unlikely, deadline or not.
Jeff Passan has a good write-up on where things stand heading into today, where there might be cautious optimism, but he also advises that the existing gaps are still too large to think a deal today is likely. It turns out that a lot of significant proposal swapping happened yesterday in secret, which is probably a good sign, but the only thing we know is that the owners offered to move up the first tier of the first year of the luxury tax from $220 million to $228 million (players have been at $238 million), and the final year’s first tier to $238 million (players have been at $263 million). That move, alone, doesn’t necessarily seem massive (especially given Evan Drellich’s caution that it came with “major strings” attached). It’s a good bump. Arguably the first good bump we’ve seen from the owners on the luxury tax, and puts their number roughly in the range folks were projecting when the lockout started. But the raise to $238 million throughout the five years of the deal is pretty darn modest, and it’s still unknown what the upper tiers or the penalties look like in this latest offer.
Stay tuned for today’s negotiations, but (1) cross your fingers that there AREN’T constant leaks, and (2) remember that a deal is maybe something like a 10% proposition.