Senior Staff Writer
After an extended lockout, the MLB has finally reached a tentative agreement to begin the season on April 7, 2022. The sport faced a complete standstill for 99 days before a compromise last week. Moreover, if you did not realize baseball has been dead for the last three and a half months, let me catch you up.
Controversy has surrounded the league since December 2, 2021; the sport was halted as players protested unfair treatment from ownership. The conflict at its core comes down to club owners who feel like they pay players too much money versus the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), who are looking to reconstruct the league to benefit future players. The players have exposed four notable failing facets of the league.
The MLB still gains much of its revenue through media rights and local television deals. This means that every team has to fend for themselves; it is up to them to make a local television deal. In the end, 30% of each local contract is pooled together and dispersed equally throughout the league. Many players felt they had not seen their fair share of this money.
Players sought a raise in the minimum salary to reasonably pay the younger guys in the league. However, salary talk has been difficult as the league has suffered a significant decrease in salary expenses in the last five years. The aggregate salary has decreased by $200,000, dropping from 4.25 billion to 4.05 billion. This may not seem significant, but it is a downward trend players do not want to see continue.
Service Time Manipulation
The MLBPA has raised awareness of a loophole that has delayed many players’ free agency period. This loophole is called Service Time Manipulation. In the MLB, a player reaches free agency after six full seasons of baseball, and for a player to receive an entire season of service time, they must be on the team for 172 days.
Kris Bryant became the poster boy for this loophole seven years ago. In 2015, Bryant was lighting it up, playing his best ball in the lower divisions of the league. Bryant reached Triple-A but was held there until one day after getting an entire season of service time. The Cubs waited to bring Bryant to the major leagues until the maximum service time he could receive was 171 days, one day short of a full season. Service time manipulation allows the clubs to keep a player an extra half a year before entering free agency. Players proposed that players be allowed to enter free agency after five years instead of six years to avoid this loophole.
Anti-Competitiveness and Competitive Balance Tax Threshold
Baseball interest has been declining drastically. The league is not in the same position it once was. Both the players and insiders have pointed their fingers at the anti-competitiveness around the league. Players accused clubs and players of tanking and showing anti-competitiveness on the field, which is a massive problem as it has created disparity within the league.
At the same time, one of the essential proponents of the players association stance was the reformation of the league’s Competitive Balance Tax (CBT). The CBT is determined using the average annual value of each player’s contract, and each club must stay below the threshold. For example, in 2019, the threshold was set at 206 million dollars. Of course, the players association wants to increase the CBT threshold, but by doing so, the clubs with more money will only distance themselves even farther from the teams being accused of tanking.
These four facets of the league have crippled the sport of baseball and the MLB lockout has ended with the league taking steps in the right direction for the betterment of the sport. The MLB has finalized, at long last, a collective bargaining agreement with the players association. The agreement favors many of the demands laid out by the players association. First, the minimum salary will increase to $700,000 and peak at $780,000 in the final year; for reference, the minimum salary in 2021 was $570,000. There will also be a 50 million dollar pre-arbitration bonus pool; this money will be distributed amongst the league’s top young stars who are not eligible for arbitration. Unfair pay and mistreatment towards young players were significant issues the players association would not budge on.
As for service time manipulation, the CBA agreement presents two solutions. One solution is that the top two rookies will receive a full year of service time. The second solution is that teams with a rookie who finish high in voting can be rewarded with draft picks, as long as that rookie was on their opening day roster. Lastly, The Competitive Balance Threshold will increase upward of 244 million in the final year of the CBA. The rise in the threshold will hopefully lead to a balance in competitiveness among the top half of the league. However, there were no discussions of additional penalties for teams who exceed the threshold.
Overall, this agreement is a step in the right direction for the game of Baseball. Player satisfaction is crucial to a sustainable association. In the end, it is a player’s game; without the players, there is no game.