MLB labor peace, and its annoying consequences

MLB labor peace, and its annoying consequences
Selig, upon learning the owners' intention to sign the new CBA while in the nude // Getty Photo

The MLB owners and the players union shook hands on a new 5-year Collective Bargaining Agreement to be announced on Monday, and perhaps that’s all we should care about.

The NBA has been kind enough to provide reference on how dreary and dull it can be to watch two sides grapple endlessly in a stalemate as canceled games pile up.  The NFL was even kind enough to show how annoying it is to spend the entire off-season focusing on anything besides stupid trades, and Jonathan Papelbon looking like a serial killer.

Losing baseball games wouldn’t just be awful for this blog, or summer TV programming, but would also rob us of a tremendously reliable leisure activity; something we share with family, friends, and rando’s on Twitter.  It would suck, you get me?

Now that we’ve devoted enough time to being thankful for the new CBA, it’s time to pick through this thing like it was Prometheus’ liver.

HGH Testing

Blood testing for Human Growth Hormone will start in earnest at the beginning of Spring Training in February.  For a league that is desperately trying to assert itself as removed from the so-called “steroid-era”, this is an important step, both for their psyche and to win back some still-bitter fans who were driven off.

Given the dearth of players caught under the current testing policy, it’s highly unlikely that half the league will be disqualified by Opening Day.  Maybe Mike Jacobs.


The Houston Astros are moving to the AL West, at the start of 2013…


Well, the Astros are being sold, so maybe they’re not too far from replacing Ed Wade, being competently run, and ruining the fun.  Evening up the leagues to 15 teams each means interleague play will be getting spliced into schedule’s all year long.

It also brings about changes to the playoff structure.  There will be two Wild Card teams, set to square off in a one-game playoff  to earn the right to compete in the ALDS, which will remain in the same format.  It makes the division races more meaningful, but also exacerbates the primary issue with the playoffs; a failure to reward depth.

Minimum Salary

It’s raised to $480 K for all major-leaguers, and scheduled to tick up to $500K later in the deal.  It just got better to be Jayson Nix!

Punish the Small Markets

Rumors of a cap on draft spending have been out for a while.  It will apparently also extend to international free agents, and probably any other cheap method of acquiring talent that small-market teams have come to rely on.

The cap will take the form of a luxury tax ranging from 75-100%, with a possible loss of draft picks.  These restrictions probably affect the White Sox the least out of all 30 teams, though it will make it harder for them illegally inflate amateur free agent bonuses again.

If that weren’t enough, the percentage of players who become eligible for salary arbitration after their 2nd year (Super 2’s) will increase from the top 17% to the top 22%.  Just a few more elite youngsters will become harder to afford a year.  Once again, the White Sox and elite youngsters rarely interact with each other.

While the luxury tax on super-high spending teams is expected to stay–with the threshold frozen at $178 million, even–a matching tax on low-spending  teams could be introduced as well.  It’s not expected to feature a strict floor and details still need to emerge, but it reflects an intense blowback against teams that are perceived to be profiting off revenue sharing and not making a concerted effort to compete.

Oh, and in that vein, revenue-sharing may be getting re-worked as well.

On the surface, it sounds like war on small-market teams and a threat to parity, but it’s important to remember that we’re not privy to the financial information for these franchises.  Perhaps they actually do need a kick.

Free Agency Alteration

Until now, compensation for teams losing their free agents was determined by the archaic and goofy Elias Sports Bureau rankings.  They provided a funny and telling insight into how archaic and goofy the Elias Sports Bureau is as an organization, but also did things like rank Darren Oliver as a more valuable free agent than Mark Buehrle.

It heinously overvalued relievers in general, so much so that one of the provisions of the new CBA is that all remaining free agent relievers are stripped of their Type A status effective immediately, meaning teams will no have to surrender their top unprotected pick (outside the top 15) to sign them.

The Elias system is getting completely scrapped, along with the type A and B tiers.  If teams wish to receive compensation for outgoing free agents, they’ll have to submit a one-year qualifying offer of at least $12.4 million to the outgoing player.  It’s good step toward having a player’s actual market value determine their worth rather than unreliable statistics like RBI and ERA.


As with all of these items, more details should become available with the formal announcement and signing of the agreement.  The general feeling of “Thank goodness there’s baseball” might be matched with “Thank goodness the White Sox never actually utilize any of the practices (overspending, underspending, international free agency, the draft, guzzling HGH by the barrelfull) being curbed.”

For me it’s more, “Thank goodness I can go back to actually talking about baseball after this.”


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  • Based on what James writes here, seems like a coup for the players’ union. A hike in minimum salary. A cap on draft spending and a kick in the collective pants of small market team owners to spend more, both presumably channeling more cash toward mlb player salaries. Plus the curtailing of draft pick compensation, which scares off many potential free agent suitors. I can only assume that free agent and arbitration salaries will rise significantly over the next five years. Right?

    Hey, maybe in this future market Alex Rios becomes tradable!

    And lastly, if draftees and minor leaguers are going to get hosed like this, they should at least get to take HGH.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Yeah, can't seem to imagine any of these stipulations registering as a loss for the Players Union. Perhaps HGH testing, but they're in favor of cleaning up their public image. Perhaps the draft cap is bad for players in general, but the guys in on the negotiation don't seem to care about guys currently in high school and college.

  • I suppose that the kick should be placed under teams like Pittsburgh, if they are getting revenue sharing. On the other hand, Houston wasn't a perennial bottom feeder (anyone remember 05? Especially Sox fans?).

    The more interesting thing that does affect the White Sox is that the team has to make a $12.4 million qualifying offer to get compensation. That probably assures that the Sox won't get compensation. If they thought a player were worth that, they would have offered an extension. However, the point is probably more relevant to the now moot A Ram discussion in another neighborhood of Chicago Now.

    At least, as you note, they got HGH testing and we won't be hearing legal stuff all winter.

  • In reply to jack:

    Houston doesn't have a sky-high budget, but it's more the Ed Wade era that's taken them down. Paying top-dollar for the twilight years of Carlos Lee and Brandon Lyon has not gone well for them.

    I don't know if $12.4 is a death knell to compensation across the board. Sure, you don't offer that to a top-flight reliever (which is kind of the point), but chances are John Danks--and pitchers in general--aren't going to want to play on a one-year deal when multi-year guaranteed contracts are going to be available to them.

    Man oh man, even the discussion of the Sox giving multiple years to a 33 year-old coming off a bounceback year that probably needs to move to 1st base....grrrrrr.

    The proposed HGH test is rumored to be flawed, so maybe they'll be more complaints about it soon enough.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I was thinking the "chances are," except from the angle that if the Sox wanted to keep someone, they would offer the guaranteed contract extension before free agency, instead of the tender of $12.4 million.

    However, if you go to the other neighborhood, you'll see that Epstein did the opposite of what I said. Danks may also be an exception, as he did not take the long term contract with the big back end, which Floyd did take, so maybe the Sox would take that risk knowing that Danks wants to shop his services.

  • In reply to jack:

    Absolutely. I might go so far to say that a team would never actually want to sign a player to a qualifying offer. They would only offer it to a player who was either a lock to reject it or the scenario in which they accepted it wasn't disastrous. In Danks' case, he seems like he should be in the neighborhood of Buehrle's 2007 deal, for which a qualifying offer would not only turn him off because it's short-termed, but because he could get a higher rate too.

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