Bernie on the Scene: Update on CBA Negotiations

Bernie on the Scene: Update on CBA Negotiations

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I'm going to depart from my normal prospect evaluations to share information I have heard regarding the status of negotiations between the Major League Player's Association and Major League Baseball regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The CBA expires December 1, 2021. 

I have discussed the progress, or lack of progress, being made toward a new agreement with individuals who work in the game and are very close to the action. I trust what they have told me.

However, I also must remember, and remind readers, my sources are not in the room in which negotiations are taking place. It is entirely possible my sources are getting information their sources want to disseminate. However, I doubt the information is inaccurate. Rather, I think what I have heard is true.

Here is what I have learned:

1. We had heard rumors that ownership offered the players a guaranteed payroll "floor" of $100M per team.

After that item was reported, many in the media indicated that offer never happened. They said it was not a fact. Indeed, they said the owners would never offer each team a payroll floor of $100M. After all, according to Fangraphs.com, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the season with an estimated payroll of $80M. Could the club survive if their payroll was increased by $20M?

The Tampa Bay Rays finished the season with an estimated payroll of $71M. The Cleveland Indians/Guardians were at an estimated $51M.  

According to my source, ownership did, indeed, offer the Player's

Today I'm going to depart from my normal prospect evaluations to share information I have heard regarding the status of negotiations between the Major League Player's Association and Major League Baseball regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The CBA expires December 1, 2021. 

I have discussed the progress, or lack of progress, being made toward a new agreement with individuals who work in the game and are very close to the action. I trust what they have told me.

However, I also must remember, and remind readers, my sources are not in the room in which negotiations are taking place. It is entirely possible my sources are getting information their sources want to disseminate. However, I doubt the information is inaccurate. Rather, I think what I have heard is true.

Here is what I have learned:

1. We had heard rumors that ownership offered the players a guaranteed payroll "floor" of $100M per team.

After that item was reported, many in the media indicated that offer never happened. They said it was not a fact. Indeed, they said the owners would never offer each team a payroll floor of $100M. After all, according to Fangraphs.com, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the season with an estimated payroll of $80M. Could the club survive if their payroll was increased by $20M?

The Tampa Bay Rays finished the season with an estimated payroll of $71M. The Cleveland Indians/Guardians were at an estimated $51M.  

According to my source, ownership did, indeed, offer the Player's Association a floor of a $100M payroll per club.

The players turned down the offer.

2. The players are said to have claimed the "floor" acted very much like a salary cap, something the players were never going to tolerate.

I clearly don't get that logic. If anything, it is the opposite of a salary cap. It is a bare minimum amount of money the team must spread around among their roster. I have no idea how that can be construed as a salary cap? There must have been some hook in the deal that my source did not know. I just can't see why players would not want to agree to a minimum payroll of $100M per team.

3. My source has indicated that if there is no agreement reached by December 1, 2021, the owners will, indeed, lock out the players.

If the owners lock out the players, everything in baseball goes "dark." Contract negotiations with players are put on hold. Free agents cannot sign with a new club. Everything baseball comes to a halt. Home parks and spring training venues would be shut down, meaning players could not work out in those facilities. Rehabilitation procedures going on in team-owned facilities would be halted. Personnel assigned to work with rehabilitating players would not be made available. And that's huge.

If you're coming back from Tommy John surgery and are a big league pitcher? Sorry, you'll have to find your own rehab center and staff to work with you.

4. My source has indicated that Player's Association executive director Tony Clark is said to be taking an extremely hard line in this negotiation, feeling the player's got the short end of the stick in the last CBA. He and the Association's chief bargaining and legal chief Bruce Meyer will try to correct every wrong they feel the player's endured in their last CBA.

5. Allegedly, the player's have made a new proposal to the owners. Details are not known. However, my source indicated the players had not made a new proposal in months. Now, there is a new proposal for the owners to review.

6. Along with their proposed payroll floor of $100M per team, the owners have allegedly proposed to increase penalties for violating the luxury tax threshold. That could dissuade large market owners from over-the-top spending.

7. Allegedly, parity and a more equal "playing field" among all of MLB clubs is a goal of the players. They are totally opposed to the current "haves" and "have not" teams in the game. They want their players on every team to have a chance to play for a ring.

8. Players wish lists include:

  • Reducing the years required for arbitration from three to two years.
     
  • Changing the draft order by conducting a lottery for the bottom-half teams in the standings. This would be instead of draft orders being created by the reverse order of standings.
  • Increase the minimum salary.
  • Change the way service time is calculated so players may reach free agency sooner.

My source was not clear on the owner's positions on issues. Therefore, I won't speculate here.

To be clear, we could be in a for a very rough ride between now and December 1.

Usually, a great deal of discussion takes place at the final moments. I would expect that to be the case again this year. 

All kinds of time has come and gone, and we still have no agreement. But the "full course press" should begin very soon.

Stay tuned. And if you're like me, you hope that common sense and cool heads prevail. But I wouldn't bet on it. And especially if players don't get their share of the total revenue pool — including the massive amount of advertising on baseball betting.

Have a great week. Be safe. Stay healthy.

And thanks for following me on twitter and reading my work at Forbes.

I'll have prospect profiles again next week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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