Well, that was fast, and without the drama forecast by many in the chattering classes: MLB and the players’ union agreed on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that keeps the labor peace while divvying goodies for both sides in a series of negotiations that went fairly smoothly, by all accounts.
There had been plenty of dire predictions and silly talk from the pundit class, with warnings that the Winter Meetings could be scrapped and the beginning of the season delayed because of labor unrest. Turns out there was considerably less rancor in the proceedings than many projected, and a deal came together fairly easily before tonight’s midnight deadline. From The New York Times:
This was the first negotiation with Rob Manfred as commissioner and Tony Clark as the head of the union, and the slow pace of talks in recent weeks had frustrated some on management’s side. But while the sides each wanted revisions to certain rules, there was no battleground issue that seriously threatened the industry.
The union has always been fundamentally opposed to artificial restrictions on salaries and remained mindful of that in these negotiations. In the labor deal that just expired, teams were fined for payrolls exceeding $189 million. In the new agreement, those figures will rise annually, from $195 million to $210 million.
The most pressing question at the end of the talks was how to penalize teams that exceed the limit, without creating a de facto salary cap or creating too much of a spread between the high- and low-payroll teams.
Forfeiting draft picks was under consideration, but teams value picks so highly now that doing so could inhibit their willingness to exceed the threshold. The union naturally resisted that idea, and the penalty again will be fines, though they are expected to be steeper for teams that go far beyond the threshold.
Also in play: a proposed international draft, but it ended being a proposal that really was never pushed by MLB (the logistics are daunting) and easily countered by the players union. In the end, each team will be budgeted $6 million for international signings, but there will be no international draft.
Details are leaking out, and we expect a full report on the deal today. One potentially great part of the new CBA: winning the All-Star Game will not be tied to home-field advantage in the World Series. Instead, the team with the best regular-season record will have home-field advantage in the World Series.
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