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New Labor Deal a Win for the Average Player

According to reports, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached a preliminary agreement on a new five-year Basic Agreement and are expected to announce it tomorrow afternoon. This deal is rumored to include expanded playoffs, increase the minimum salary, HGH testing, a luxury tax on signing bonuses, and a change in draft pick compensation. Most fans will focus on the expanded playoff system. The real win, however, is for the average player, who will have more opportunities to earn during their careers.

To put this in perspective, a player pays $60 a day/$1,800 a month during the season to be a member of the Players Association. It doesn’t matter if you are Alex Rodriguez or Val Pascucci; you each pay the same per day when you are on a big league roster. That’s not a lot if you are making $30 million dollars a year, but it can be painful if you are at the league minimum or just starting out. Very rarely do you think of the middle relievers, bench players, or first year players as drivers to any union negotiation, yet it appears they were at the heart at this current labor deal.

The first noticeable win is the increase in the league minimum from 414k to $480k this coming year. It will ultimately move to $500k over the life of the deal. For the average fan this is a tremendous amount of money, but the difference between 414k and 500k can impact a player’s lifestyle in those early years. Remember, most of these guys aren’t bonus babies. They made their way up the minor league ladder eating bad food, living in poor accommodations, and making less than $2,000 a month. More than one has significant debt to pursue this dream. No, it’s not because they overspent on cars and jewelry, but they needed to incur this debt on basic living expenses. Do some simple math and see how far $2k a month (before taxes) goes in supporting a wife and kid. Spend time with a minor league ballplayer of any skill level and you will appreciate your 75k corporate job with benefits. As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t trade your grind for theirs.

You could also say what you want about the validity of HGH testing, but vetting out the cheaters puts everyone on an even playing field. When reading the Mitchell Report, it appeared there were more fringe players that were partaking in PED use than stars. Players who wanted to stay on the field, even in Triple-A, just for a chance to earn another paycheck or receive that last call up. Take some “vitamins” and perhaps you get to stick around the league for 2-3 years at the minimum salary. It beats going out and making 30k a year in the real world. How many legitimate players were robbed of that final roster spot because of PEDs? Hard to calculate, but it’s a bone of contention when you talk to clean players that fell into that “just missed” category.

Some other big wins are the rumored change in Super Two status, contract tender date, and removal of the Elias rankings when it comes to free agency.

Previously, players had to have two years and 86 days of service in the big leagues and be in the top 17 percent in total service in their class to become a Super Two player. If they fell into that percentile, it allowed them to be arbitration eligible before their third year. That number is rumored to be increasing to more than 20 percent.  Players will have the ability to negotiate larger salaries early in their career, versus the club renewing them for the minimum.

Another change is in the contract tender date. Moving the contract tender date up ten days to December 2nd may not seem like a big deal, but for fringe or niche players it can open up the pool of teams that could be interested in their services. It always seemed unfair that teams were allowed to tender contracts after the Winter Meetings. Why not allow the agents and players to shop for their services with everyone else? It puts everyone on even playing ground.

Additionally, the ever increasing value of draft picks made the Type A versus Type B status a big deal. Why should a players market be determined by Elias? It was even more ridiculous that relievers were going to cost the same draft pick as an everyday player. Again, not losing a draft pick will allow those middle relievers to have larger markets, create more competition, and ultimately land them additional years and dollars.

There was a tradeoff. Teams will be penalized with a tax between 75 and 100 percent of each dollar they go over their “draft budget.” This will reduce the signing bonuses of amateur players. Probably not the top tier talent, but many athletes might consider going to school if they are unsure about what sport to play, or can’t get a payday that is worth passing up an education for. Those middle round over slot signings may become a thing of the past. The Yankees have specifically been adept at using this practice to build up the depth of their farm system. It may reduce the talent pool, but ultimately it could put more qualified players in the draft. Going to school for three years, maturing, and honing your skills on the college baseball diamond isn’t the worst experience for someone before they go pro.

If most of what is rumored to be part of the new collective bargaining deal is announced tomorrow as fact, it’s a great deal, one that I support, and certainly a win for the mid-tier big league player.

By Mike Silva
Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011

 

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