A Quick Lockout Update

It seems we won’t be getting any major movement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, at least until after the New Year.

Not that we should really treat that as breaking news.

According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, there has been some interaction between the players and owners since the lockout started on December 2nd, and while there should be meetings before the week is up, the sides “are unlikely to talk core economics until January.”

This shouldn’t be a total surprise, because as Drellich points out, there is still plenty left to be hammered out before the agreement can be finalized. He cites “more than 30 subjects in collective bargaining” that need covered, but the CBA that just expired contained twenty-eight articles, fifty-six attachments, and three appendices. Some articles cover the same rules and regulations and work in concert with others, while referencing certain attachments in the text, so it’s not as if they are eighty-seven completely different subjects, but there should still be meat on the bone that the two sides can actually agree on.

It’s not as if the sides start from scratch every five years, drafting an entire new agreement every time out. Many of articles and attachments referenced above and the wording therein simply roll over, as long as both sides see no reason to change them.

Love him or hate him, I believe David Samson did a good job of laying this process out in an episode of his podcast Nothing Personal directly after the lockout.

Both sides begin preparing for the next negotiation directly after they come to an agreement, according to Samson. As time goes on and issues begin to present themselves, both sides will prepare lists of areas of concern or of no concern, basically pieces they may want to see change or view will work and will not need renegotiated.

It’s likely these points that don’t need renegotiated are what the sides are discussing now. The hope would be that by agreeing on small points and getting parts of the agreement completed that momentum and goodwill can be formed, leading to ground being made on the aspects of the agreement that neither side is seeing eye-to-eye on quite yet. Right now, that definitely seems to be needed.

Drellich points out that the sides aren’t broaching the more contentious topics at this moment because they would “likely be saying the same things to each other over and other,” and that there still isn’t enough pressure on either side to give in on what they are requesting.

It seems to still be up-in-the air as to who is going to make the first move. Neither side has reached out to the other regarding core economic issues, and the union is expecting the next counterproposal from the league, as they feel their final proposal leading up the expiration of the agreement was never countered. However, as I covered before, the league is not in agreement on that sentiment.

If it was on your list, I’d stop hoping for an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for the holidays.

Looks like we’ll all be getting socks this year.

A few more updates:

A couple of items I covered in my lockout manifesto have become clear since the last time I checked in, so I just wanted to cover those quickly:

Jayson Stark of The Athletic, in his piece about a reverse draft order, had some more specifics on the players’ first proposal for tweaking the draft to combat tanking:

  • Teams that had one of the five worst winning percentages two years in a row couldn’t pick higher than sixth the next year
  • Teams that ranked in the bottom 10 in winning percentage three years in a row couldn’t pick higher than 11th the next year
  • Extra competitive-balance draft picks after the first two rounds would go to teams that received revenue sharing and made the playoffs or had a winning record

Stark had more on revisions to their proposal:

  • Small-market teams that finished in the bottom eight the previous two years are bounced out of the lottery
  • Large-market teams that finished in the bottom four the previous two years are ineligible for the lottery.
  • After the first eight picks are determined by that lottery, the draft order then would begin with small-market clubs in reverse order of winning percentage the previous year, followed by large-market teams in reverse order of winning percentage

Finally, he clarified that it’s believed a new draft lottery system would skew closer to the variation implemented by the NBA in 2019, in which the three worst teams receive the same odds for picking first, with the fourth and fifth worst receiving slightly worse chances, but not significant.

In their latest in a series on labor, The Athletic Baseball Show podcast covered service time, in which counters by the union to try and curtail service time manipulation were touched upon, clarifying issues I merely speculated on.

Drellich points out that players who were brought up after the start of the season and were not going to get a full 172 days of service, but for example went on to win Rookie of the Year or finish “Top X of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for players at [their] position or rookies” would get additional service time at the end of the year. I speculated they could earn that extra service time at any point before reaching arbitration—at the ends of their second or third years in the league—but that doesn’t appear to be the case, based on Drellich’s reporting.

Ken Rosenthal, also of The Athletic, echoed almost exactly my sentiments on Revenue Sharing verbiage and trying to shore it up to specify its use towards payroll, but David Samson shot that down in yet another one of his episodes of Nothing Personal:

But the definition in the CBA of improving the product on the field does not mean major league payroll—it doesn’t say that….The players union would love that. The owners will never agree to that. There are not 23 votes in the ownership group to say that all revenue sharing dollars received must go to payroll. Not gonna happen.

Ben Clemens of FanGraphs, in his examination of current projections for 2022 payrolls, was poking holes in the proposed floor/reduced tax line floated by the owners, showing why the math didn’t seem to work in the player’s favor:

But even with so many free agents yet to sign, the floor would already have no effect. The teams below $100 million in CBT payrolls total a shortfall of $110 million, while the teams over the proposed ceiling constitute a “surplus” of $280 million, making clear which payroll state serves the players better.

Not that this should even be a concern, as Rosenthal reiterates in his recent mailbag podcast:

Even if it could be an answer, and there is a world I can envision where a salary cap might work in this sport–even if you look at it that way it’s just not reality right now. The players are never going to accept it, they have fought hard against it, and the owners, unlike in ‘94, know better than to even propose it.

As you can probably tell, there is a ton of great coverage out there regarding this lockout, if it’s something you truly want to learn more about.

However, I’ll do my best to keep you up to date here, as more information continues to come to light as the process moves along.