The first of December is significant for a multitude of reasons. For me it marks the unofficial start to winter, the day my Christmas music is justified despite playing it since November. This year, the first of the month was a little more daunting. For weeks, the Major League Baseball Players Association and owners struggled to reach common ground on a new labor deal, as the current one expired at midnight on Thursday.
At 8:45 Wednesday night, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the collective bargaining agreement was done, just hours before the deadline. Had a deal not been met, a lockout would eventually take place. Of course, a lockout in the spring would have more of a noticeable impact. An off-season lockout wouldn’t prevent winter meetings from going on, but without clear policies in place owners would be reluctant to making many moves. The compromise extends the 21 years of “peace” within the league, with the last lockout occurring in 1994.
All the CBA talks can be hard to follow, so let’s breakdown what was debated and the compromises that were eventually made. There are a lot of numbers coming up, so bare with me.
We’ll start with free agency and how qualifying offers will change. Under the new agreement, players will no longer be allowed to receive a qualifying offer (QO) more than once. QO’s are always one-year deals with fixed amounts offered to free agents. The amount is determined by averaging the salaries of the top-125 players of the previous season. Teams that give up a QO free agent will be granted a pick (number dependent on team’s market size) only if the free agent signs a contract above $50 million. In the past, teams that signed QO free agents would have to sacrifice a first round draft pick. Now, any team over the luxury tax picking up a QO free agent will have to give up a second and fifth round pick in addition to $1 million in international bonus money. Teams under the luxury tax will give up a third round pick in exchange for the QO free agent.
So let’s talk about the luxury tax. While the MLB does not have a hard salary cap, they attempt to control team’s spending through punishment by a luxury tax. The new CBA will raise the luxury tax slightly at first (from $189 million to $195 million) and then up to $210 million by 2021 when this CBA will expire. Though the raise isn’t monumental, repeat offenders will face much heftier punishment. By third offense, a team will have to pay 50 percent when they go $20 million over, then 62.5 percent for the next $20 million and a whooping 95 percent after going $40 million over. These changes in penalties will take effect in 2017.
The new labor deal put an end to the god-awful All-Star game rule. In the past, the winner of the All-Star game also won home field advantage in the World Series. I can kind of understand wanting to add incentive other than pride to an otherwise meaningless mid-season game. However, allowing a mash up of players from various teams to determine something as important as home field advantage is absurd. Instead, home field advantage will be determined by which team has the better record. Wild concept.
Other additions to the deal include a ban on chewing tobacco for all new players, and season openers being moved to the beginning of the week starting in 2018 to allow for more off-days.
Some issues were not fully addressed, such as the possibility of a 26-man roster from April-August. According to sources, owners were concerned with the extra opening, and players were split so the issue may be revisited.
As for what didn’t make the cut: an international draft. Numerous top prospects and Latin American players expressed their opposition to the idea, including David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and Carlos Santana. Most of the players agreed that an international draft would have negative effects on prospects, as they would see a significant decrease in signing bonuses. Owners would have more control over the players, as they would lose the freedom to negotiate with various teams. Some of the top Dominican prospects felt strongly enough to speak at the meetings in Dallas, which extended until 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Unless you’re into baseball for the business aspect, you’re likely wondering how all this will affect the players. In short, there’s no solid answer. Though a lot of details on the new agreement have surfaced, there are still a lot of unknowns. Each day we’ll learn more and more and everyone will surely voice opinions on what’s good and what’s bad, but in reality all we can do is sit back and see how it plays out.