MLB owners and players have just about sealed their newest covenant, which will alter various parts of the sport’s landscape.
Though we were able to obtain only a portion of the new collective bargaining agreement, it should be noted that this was the most professionally negotiated agreement I have seen in my time within baseball. I’ve written this before, but having experienced the frosty climate of past labor negotiations, commissioner Bud Selig, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner deserve credit for keeping the entire process peaceful and productive.
Tuesday’s announcement will shed more light on the new deal. It essentially is a refinement of the current system that has offered the sport so much success during the last decade. Here’s my take on each of the known parts. In italics is what was reported:
Two new wild-card teams, including a one-game sudden-death playoff format
The addition of another wild-card spot is great for baseball, as more small and mid-market teams have more opportunities to make the postseason. The one-game playoff is exciting, and there needed to be more incentive to winning the division than winning a wild-card berth. Essentially, there was little benefit to winning the division.
Houston Astros move to the AL in 2013
As for the Astros moving to the American League, it’s good there is an even number of teams in both leagues and in all divisions. It promotes a new natural rivalry between the Astros and Rangers.
Substantial changes in scheduling
When it comes to the new schedule, we should see more details on Tuesday, but Phillies president David Montgomery is reportedly overseeing that process.
Increase in the minimum salaries (from $480K to $500K) during the life of deal
The raise for first-year players is deserved, as many of these players coming out of high school and college then into the minor leagues aren't making much. So the reward for making it to the major leagues should be significant and a raise is completely justified.
Changes in arbitration eligibility
A larger number of players -- known as Super Two players -- will be in a position to earn arbitration eligibility with less than three years of major league service. Previously, players had to have two years and 86 days of service in the big leagues and be in the top 17 percent in total service in their class to become a Super Two player. That number will increase to more than 20 percent.
The change to the Super Two qualification will allow more players to qualify. Obviously, this was a players' association victory. It in effect moves up the date that the Mike Stantons and Stephen Strasburgs of the world will be called up from June to May. Often, under the current rule, teams would keep these stars down in the minor leagues to reduce their service time.
Player rankings eliminated, replaced with “qualifying offer” system
Teams will have to determine whether they make a qualifying offer for a free agent at a one-year guaranteed salary based on a formula. That number is likely to be a minimum of $12 million, making it highly doubtful teams would use it on players who aren't superstars. If the player rejects the offer and signs with another team, the signing team loses its spot in the first round of the amateur draft and moves to the end. Teams will no longer lose a pick for signing a premium free agent.
With the elimination of the Elias player rankings, the “qualifying offer” system defines who the elite players are. It solves the problem teams faced in deciding whether to give up the compensatory draft pick they would have to forfeit for signing a ranked player. With the increased importance placed on draft picks in recent years, teams were reluctant to forfeit those picks in order to sign a ranked free agent. In essence, free agents found themselves paying the price for a decent season. Now, as we interpret this portion of the new CBA, teams will not lose picks, but would move down in the draft for signing a top player.
Changes in the First-Year Player Draft
One of the biggest impacts of the new CBA is its impact on the draft. The current recommended, yet unenforced slotting system is eliminated and replaced, essentially, with a pool of money which each team can spend on signing bonuses for draft picks. There are also significant taxes levied on teams that exceed that threshold multiple times. Gerrit Cole got an $8 million bonus from the Pirates this year as the No. 1 overall pick, and that kind of money will be hard to come by for future draftees. This marks the first time there is a signing bonus drag on the draft, something commissioner Selig and the owners have been seeking for years.
Unfortunately, from what we know of the new CBA, it still doesn’t solve the payroll disparities between big spenders such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies and the small-market teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays. The core of the current CBA remains largely unchanged. However, the new deal seemingly improves the sport and helps it continue to make incremental progress.