4 Sticking Points Holding Up a New Major League Baseball CBA

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There appears to be four sticking points left for the MLB Player’s Association and the MLB owners in the way of getting a deal done.  Luckily the deadline set for there to still be a full 162-game season was moved to 5pm today, Tuesday, March 1st.  The two sides are reportedly meeting again this morning. The four points still being negotiated are the amount of teams that will play in the playoffs, the threshold for the Collective Bargaining Tax, the Pre-arbitration bonus pool amount, and minimum salaries for players.

The players want a 12-team playoff system while the owners want a 14-team playoff.  I’m not entirely sure why the players are against more teams in the playoffs aside from more games being a greater wear and tear on their bodies.  The owners obviously want the extra spots because postseason tickets and merchandise generate more revenue for teams.  It would also make more regular season games have worth, selling more tickets that way as well.

 However, players typically get playoff bonuses, and it would give more players the opportunity to potentially win a championship.  I think the players are using this as a bargaining chip for other areas since they know the owners really want the extra teams in.  It’s smart to use for their side as it’s one of the few bargaining chips the players have.

From the fan perspective, I am on the fence.  I think the purpose of a 162-game season is to weed out those that don’t belong in the postseason.  Half of the teams making the postseason does not match that sentiment.  However, it would keep more teams in contention longer, adding more competitive games to the schedule late in the season.  It would also stop more teams from all-out tanking if they feel they have a shot at the playoffs.

The Collective Bargaining Tax is complicated.  The CBT is the mechanism put in place to serve as a soft salary cap in baseball.  Teams whose payrolls go over a certain level are taxed and that money is shared among other teams, mostly those considered “small markets.”  The players want it increased because teams are using it in the way it was designed to be used in contract negotiations.  They are citing it as a way to say, “we can’t pay you that, it will put us over the tax.”  That was the point of it, to serve as a pseudo salary cap.

However, it is just that – a pseudo salary cap.  It does not stop all teams from going over it if they feel an extra $20-50 million thrown at player payroll, that smaller market teams don’t generate as quickly, would earn their team a championship.  It is right for the players to get what they’re worth, but the higher that threshold is, the further cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore fall behind. 

The owners obviously want that threshold to stay in place since they use it as a way to pay players less.  From the fan perspective, fans of larger market teams should want it raised.  However, us Pirate fans should want that threshold lowered, or kept as is, as it is the only thing in place that somewhat levels the playing field.

The third sticking point is the pre-arbitration bonus pool.  This bonus pool is new.  It is being established to reward those on pre-arbitration contracts that are clearly outplaying their meager rookie contracts.  The allocation of it will be based on awards like Cy Young and MVP, but also based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR). 

I find this interesting because it is the first time the WAR calculation is being used for more than just fan banter and analytics.  It is actually being used to allocate money to players.  This calculation has become such a talking point in the past five to ten seasons, and there are actually several different ways it is calculated based on who is calculating it.  I think it is interesting to bring analytics into something that is actually substantial, like allocating millions of dollars.  It adds credibility to this quirky stat we fans sports writers love to use when comparing players.

The players want this value as high as possible, while the owners want this value to be as low as possible, for obvious reasons.  I think it is a great bargaining chip for the owners, but I hope for the player’s sake, it is as large as possible.  The players do make much less on their rookie contracts and some of them are the best in the league during those years.  This pool is good for everyone.

The final sticking point is pretty relatable.  The league wants the minimum salary for a major leaguer to be $675k, while the players want it somewhere in the $700k+  range.  This is relatable because among all of the complicated issues in Major League Baseball, minimum wage is argued in all aspects of life and government.  The employees want it higher while the employers want it lower.  Pretty cut and dry.

So hopefully these four items can get worked out today before 5 pm and we can have a full season of baseball in 2022.  As the weather gets nicer, it is always nice to have Opening Day to look forward.  That hope can either be dashed or restored today.