Thursday’s meeting between Major League Baseball and the players union went pretty much exactly how anyone should have expected, which is to say nothing was really accomplished. The owners presented a core economics proposal which, as had been reported in the past, included increased minimum salaries and more money for “Super 2” players (more on that in a bit). That part is good, but Jeff Passan tweeted that the reaction from players “was not positive.”
There’s a lot more to the economic proposal than just what we’ve heard so far, like expanded playoffs, competitive balance tax thresholds, the possibility for a spending floor, etc. Giving younger players a larger percentage of the overall payroll pie is definitely one of the wins the union is looking for, but it’s still just one portion of a much larger whole.
Let’s get back to the Super 2 thing for a minute, though, because that’s rolled up in the concept of service-time manipulation that players want to eliminate. Super 2 is a designation that grants some players arb eligibility after two years instead of the typical three by being in the top 22% of service time among those who have amassed between two and three years in the majors.
Kris Bryant “achieved” that status because he was held in Triple-A for a couple weeks, granting the Cubs an extra year of control. So while it means bigger arb salaries down the road, it also means one year longer to free agency.
It’s entirely possible that Jon Heyman simply fell back on familiar nomenclature, sort of like referring to an injured player going on the DL. Per a previous report from Passan, owners planned to do away with Super 2 status in favor of something called Elite 2 “in which players who earned All-MLB honors get a third-year salary bump from $825,000 to $2.5 million.”
That seems like a very rare and specific designation few players would be able to earn, which is exactly the kind of shiny object you’d expect the owners to throw out there. Whether the proposal is still tied to WAR in some fashion isn’t known, but owners had previously proposed bumping minimum salaries to $600,000 for the first year, $700,000 for the second season, and $825,000 for the third.
With allowance for a little wiggle room here and there, it sounds as though this is the same basic proposal we’ve known about for two months already. Not that anything really would have changed given the acrimony and lack of communication between the two sides, but this is mildly disappointing nonetheless. It still feels as though the owners are unserious and are dragging things out unnecessarily.
Maybe we’ll hear more once the players counter.
Update: Thursday’s bargaining session lasted about an hour, during which the owners made several other proposals as part of what they consider their opening offer. They did not intend for this to represent the full extent of the economic structure for the next CBA, but these are still very important points and the players plan to counter at some point in the future (probably soon).
Per multiple different reports, here are some other items from the proposal:
- Universal DH, which has been a given for a while now.
- Expanded playoffs with 14 teams, two more than the union has said it’s willing to do.
- International draft instead of the current free agency structure.
- As noted above, the Super 2 system would be replaced by a formula-based salary determination, though any current players with as little as one day of service time could opt out of that in favor of traditional arbitration.
- Draft lottery for three worst records, and teams can’t be in lottery three years in a row. The union wants a lottery as well, but with more teams.
- Okay, this is where it gets really funky in terms of curtailing service-time manipulation. Teams that have a top 100 prospect on the Opening Day roster could earn either an amateur or international (if implemented) draft pick if that player wins Rookie of the Year or finishes in the top three in MVP or Cy Young voting in any of his first three seasons. Other reports said finishing top five in any of those would trigger the pick. Either way, teams could earn only one pick per player, so the Cubs would not have gotten two picks for Bryant winning ROY and MVP in his first two years. This feels like another shiny object because a) KB still won despite missing those 11 days, and b) how many players are winning those awards in their first three years?
- I’m continuing this in a new bullet just to break it up, but the other really weird thing here, and something players have a big issue with, is the determination of the top 100. Who’s making that list? And what if someone who’s ranked No. 250 comes out of nowhere to win ROY? Jacob deGrom wasn’t in MLB.com’s preseason top 100 in 2014, but he was the best rookie in baseball that year. I get that pitchers aren’t typically manipulated in the same way, but it’s an example.