Will There Ever Be Real Bargaining This Season?

Another day in the ongoing dispute between MLB and the Players. The Players Association has responded quickly to MLB's latest offer with a counteroffer. The new offer lowers the regular season from 114 games in their last proposal to 89 in this latest one. Pay would still be fully prorated for the number of games played. The Postseason would extend into November if this offer was implemented. Since the owners insist they can not afford to pay fully prorated salaries for more than around 50 games, and they are committed to finishing the season in October, this offer is basically dead on arrival.

Craig Edwards at FanGraphs has contributed another useful article to the cause, taking a hard look at the claims by the Club Owners of losses sustained and why they need such drastic pay concessions from the players to play a half season of baseball. As previously stated, Edwards' work has been invaluable to understanding some of the claims of losses being thrown around by the Club Owners. After examining MLB's latest proposal, Edwards concludes that MLB is asking the players to take on not only all of the physical risk in playing, but also most of the financial risk, too:
Ultimately, the owners might have lost about a billion dollars in expected revenue from a half season' worth of games coming off the pandemic compared to what they could arguably expect in the March agreement. They've now made two proposals that place nearly the entirety of that burden on the players and the most recent offer asks the players to assume the risk of no postseason so that the owners can turn a billion dollar profit in the regular season.
The Club Owners are already shooting down the Union's latest offer. That should come as no surprise to anyone. If they're going to pay fully prorated salaries at all, they're going to let the clock continue to run down until that 50-game regular season becomes the only option.  As Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich point out in the above linked article, it's getting to be time for both sides to make their "best and last offers." There probably is more incentive on the Players' side to do this than on MLB's, since we already know the League would be content with a short season. As long as MLB can offer the Players enough incentive to expand the Postseason, they have no reason to do a lot of bargaining. Time is on their side.

We'll see if any serious bargaining comes out of all of this, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. Apparently Rob Manfred offered a "100 percent" guarantee that baseball would be played this year when he appeared on the MLB network before the draft today. While I would concede that at least the short regular season is quite likely to happen, there's a nonzero chance that enough players get alienated enough to decide to sit out. And there is always a chance that efforts to keep COVID-19 at bay are unsuccessful, which is why MLB keeps making offers that don't guarantee all of the money unless the Playoffs are completed.

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Some clarification about something I wrote in yesterday's post. I don't think it's "wrong" for clubs to use the existing rules to manipulate young players' service time. I do believe that it can work against the club because many of the best young players are clearly annoyed by the practice. Maybe it's not a great idea for clubs to damage their relationship with these players right from the get-go.

I really give Brodie Van Wagenen credit for not doing this with Pete Alonso last year. I think Alonso more than repaid the gesture with the excitement he brought and the record he broke - which certainly wouldn't have happened if he was held back in the minors last year.

Same thing with tanking. There is a real incentive for Clubs to do it, and it is most certainly legal, but it looks like hell, and it damages competitiveness when teams that play in the same division as tankers are able to fatten their records while teams in other divisions don't have that luxury. As long as Wildcards are decided by best record, there is no place for tanking in MLB. Not to mention that these teams are getting their TV contract money and selling tickets to their games at full value while intentionally offering an inferior product.

I'm going to check out of here now and check out the coverage of the MLB draft. My friends at Mack's Mets have it covered, and I look forward to seeing what they have to say. Thanks for stopping by, please come back soon. Stay safe, stay well, take care.


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