Dueling Proposals: Where Each Side Stands Mid-Lockout (Update)

As promised, the league countered the player’s newest proposal on Tuesday with a mini-proposal of their own.

With that in mind, I thought I would provide a very brief update on my prior summary, covering only aspects of the owner’s side that changed in their latest offer.

Service Time Manipulation

Players: Add service time to players who were called up after the start of the season based on accomplishments

Owners: Reward draft picks to teams that roster Top-100 prospects from the start of the season who go on to achieve certain accolades in their pre-arbitration seasons

Despite not getting any updates on the owner’s side here, some details came to light, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, as to what accomplishments the players have in mind.

It seems that the players want to credit a player who doesn’t start the year in the majors with service if they finish Top 5 in Rookie of the Year voting, Top 3 in Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year voting, make the First or Second All-MLB teams, or reach certain MVP voting thresholds.

Without going back to check, it would be interesting to see how much extra service time something like this would result in. For example, Kris Bryant would have received a full year of service in 2015 after winning NL Rookie of the Year, resulting in him hitting free agency a year earlier. A more recent example would be Wander Franco, who placed third in AL Rookie of the Year voting this past season, which would have rounded off an entire year of service for him.

A significantly bigger request is earning service for every day on a playoff roster, as this would affect far more than just first-year players. It seems as if players would be able to receive additional service to max out at one year for the season in question.

Not surprisingly, the owners reportedly rejected this part of the player’s proposal on Tuesday.

Minimum Salaries

Players: $775,000 starting in 2022, ending with $875,000 by the end of the agreement

Owners: Three tier system ($615,000 for less than one year of service, $650,000 for 1.000 to 1.171, and $700,000 for 2.000 to 2.171), rising $10,000 annually

In their ultimate generosity, owners offered to raise their minimum offer for less than one year of service by a whole $15,000. However, they can’t call it a minimum with a straight face, as a previously unknown part of their proposal is making these salary levels fixed, meaning teams couldn’t exceed them, even if they wanted to.

Very few players make exactly the league minimum every year, with most of them agreeing to contracts based on formulas implemented by teams to factor in things like service and performance. There are even examples of players earning well above the minimum, like when Mike Trout earned $1 million in his final pre-arbitration year in 2014. Teams will do this to acknowledge performance and foster goodwill, which is apparently a bad thing in the eyes of the owners. The only good thing that would come of this is teams couldn’t knock off a few thousand dollars if they have to renew a player’s contract, something some have been known to do.

On the player’s side, they are rightfully concerned that this is effectively a pay decrease, something Travis Sawchick of theScore astutely pointed out.

Super 2

Players: Eliminate the Super 2 designation, instead making all players with 2.000 plus years of service eligible for arbitration

Owners: No current changes

After making several offers to repeal and totally alter the current arbitration system, owners have relented, officially withdrawing the final aspect of their arbitration proposals, paying players between 2.000 and 3.000 years of service based on a formula. This means the status quo would remain as far as the current arbitration system goes.

The players are sticking with a decreased timeline to arbitration, something that the owners, as of right now, will still not entertain.

Pre-arbitration Bonuses

Players: Share a pool of $105 million to pre-arbitration players based on accomplishments

Owners: Offered a pool of $10 million to be split among certain pre-arbitration players based on performance

All along we’ve known that owners were open to this, and now they’ve at least made their intentions known, even though there is obviously still quite a gap remaining between the sides.

It potentially may not be as bad as it looks, as a prominent labor voice during these negotiations—Eugene Freedman—made a very reasonable point after the news broke. Essentially, as long as there is a gap between how big of a group of players the pool will be funding, there’s going to be a gap between the size of the pools. Right now, that part of the proposals isn’t totally clear.

Some reports insinuated that the $10 million would go to the Top-30 players based on WAR, while others claimed it would also be based on awards. It’s hard to imagine exactly how that many players split $10 million, so I’ll wait to reserve judgement on that piece of the puzzle.

In both cases, it seems as if the pool would be funded by central revenues, so teams wouldn’t have to worry about payroll going up to fund these bonuses.

Pension Plan

Finally, I won’t act as if I’m a pension expert, but two reports brought a new issue to light that I at least wanted to mention.

Purportedly, the owners “withdrew [their] proposal that would have delinked pensions from inflation, which under the current plan results in automatic increases”. The second report words the news as the league is “no longer offering to take away cost-of-living increases to the players’ pension”, so in both cases, it certainly seemed like a crummy thing owners were trying to do.

I didn’t format this point the same as the others, but if I had, it would have been something like “Players: ‘Not cool, man.’” It’s nice to see that this was taken off the table, hopefully accompanied with other positives for the players.