There was never expected to be a deal struck yesterday, but it is unfortunate to see the parameters of Major League Baseball’s proposal. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan outlined, the highlights were a slight raise in the minimum salary, draft pick incentivization to teams that don’t manipulate service time, and tweaks to a proposed draft lottery. The universal designated hitter remained part of the current language and there was also the proposal of an expanded Postseason going to 14 teams from the current 12.
Lots of good nuggets were thrown out on Twitter yesterday and each of them is worthy of being addressed. Let’s get into those:
On minimum salary -
That's a decent start, but a substantial amount of Major Leaguers make the league minimum. After being underpaid as minor leaguers a $30,000 jump might not be seen as much of a needle mover.
On the Luxury Tax-
This is arguably the most notable area of contention for players. While Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, many organizations act as though there is one. Few ever venture into the Luxury Tax, and plenty more come right up next to it while avoiding additional spending. The owners willing to move just $4 million while the players are hoping for $35 million is an inconsequential concession. The little bit of movement also suggests that owners don't want spending power for their teams to go up as they'd then be expected to allocate those funds. Obviously this was met with frustration by the players. Apparently the owners viewed this proposal as far from complete, and despite the lack of urgency, will tackle only certain issues at a time.
On service time manipulation-
From the moment I saw this included I wondered how it would be applied. Service time manipulation has been beyond evident at times and yet players still are told to deal with it. As Eugene notes in the tweet above, tying service time manipulation to outcomes driven from outside sources, the issue is no longer being handled by the parties involved. It'd be great for teams to promote players when they are ready, but the most beneficial thing to an organization is how long they can control a player at less than market value.
On free agency-
Keeping a player away from free agency remains of the utmost importance to owners. While being paid through arbitration the wages are significantly diminished and contracts are handled on a yearly basis. The idea of small or mid-market teams stems from owners wanting a fanbase to believe they are not able to spend with larger geographical locations. There are certainly more desirable places to play, but players don't leave teams for those reasons as much as they go to where the payday will come. Most small and mid-market teams look to flip their stars before paying them, and that's a much greater issue regarding competitive balance than any decision a player will make on their own.
Again, there was never a belief that yesterday would mark a deal getting done, but the state of negotiations as they stand now isn't a promising one. The owners took over a month to propose a deal with many non-starters for players and have took the stance that they were only focused on parts of the puzzle. At the end of the day Spring Training is looking more and more in question. Players skipping games is really the only want owners feel it in their pocketbooks, and we're rolling towards that reality.
As the calendar turns day by day, the greatest indicator of progress will be how quickly counter-proposals are set forth. If we're continuing to do this weeks at a time, baseball by May might be a longshot.