Pitchers & Catchers were set to report today, and of course that will not happen!

Baseball is now over 75-days into their lock-out that began at the beginning of December. Today, the MLB lock-out has now officially delayed the opening of big league camps in Florida and Arizona as pitchers and catchers were set to report today. The impasse needs a serious intervention and MLB unilaterally agreed to have a federal mediator step in which has not happened to this point due to pushback from the player’s union.

Yes, there are real issues that need to be fixed. But employers (aka ownership) almost always are slow to change. The only thing they seem to fully agree on is having a universal designated hitter. Most of the other issues require money and give and take. The union wants to discourage teams from tanking. The owners response through commissioner Rob Manfred, Jr. is to move forward with a draft lottery similar to the system the NBA has for their drafts.

Last Thursday, Manfred addressed the media at the end of the quarterly owners’ meetings at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Florida. Manfred declined to officially postpone the beginning of spring training and said that the possibility of missing regular-season games during the league’s lock-out of players would have “a disastrous outcome” but called himself an “optimist” and said, “I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule.”

The two sides met on Saturday and the meeting broke up quickly as reported by the media on-site with no deal in place. There was no Valentine’s love yesterday. There seems to be no compromise.

“You’re always one breakthrough away from making an agreement,” Manfred said. “That’s the art of this process. Somebody makes a move. And that’s why we’ll make additional moves on Saturday that creates flexibility on the other side and what seemed like a big gap on this topic or that topic isn’t such a big gap anymore.”

There won’t be a breakthrough because both sides are so far apart and nobody is looking to meet in the middle. You can look through the history of minimum salaries and since the big increase from 2011-to-2012, it has been small increases with each new CBA. The union reportedly wants a minimum wage set at $775,000 for a full-time player who is pre-arbitration eligible. Currently, that minimum wage is set at $570,500. MLB is not going to raise the pay by 36% in one massive adjustment, but certainly they can get there over time with five adjustments starting with the $615,000 the MLB proposed for this year and then increasing annually by a 5.9% escalator that gets them to the $775,000 the union would want.

Minimum Wage Year Our Proposal
 $                 570,500 2021 Current
 $                 615,000 2022 7.8%
 $                 651,300 2023 5.9%
 $                 690,000 2024 5.9%
 $                 732,000 2025 5.9%
 $                 775,000 2026 5.9%

Making compromises is a key, but both sides are so far apart. Why can’t they do our plan here that Stever20 and I came up with? How hard was that? By the end of the five-year CBA from 2022-2026 the final salary is the $775,000 the union wants. The league has proposed a $615,000 minimum that could be in place for 2022.

Statista chart showing MLB minimum salaries in the past 18 years

The union also reportedly wants a $115 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. A bonus pool would give a nice boost in pay to top players in the league who aren’t able to enter their arbitration years. Think back to the deal that Ronald Acuna Jr. signed when he was in pre-arbitration that could prove to be one of the worst player contracts in baseball history. A pre-arb pool to reward top players should be a no-brainer, but the sides are about $100 million apart on what they want. Again, a simple compromise to meet in the middle at $60 million should get them to a point where all teams contribute $2 million annually to this pool. This is not hard at all to meet each other halfway. Of course these higher salaries will set a higher level to pay players during their arbitration-eligible years.

Behind closed doors there have certainly been other discussions such as the best way to stop tanking in baseball which is perhaps the biggest problem that the sport faces in putting non-competitive teams out there to play games against stacked teams that are pushing over the CBT “soft cap” limits at the high-end. How do you fix it? A lottery to not reward the team the team with the worst record with the No. 1 draft pick could dissuade teams from tanking, but that is probably not enough on its own. Personally, I think you need a formula to set a minimum spending level for each team. If you do that, you probably will also put an end to service time manipulation.

The owners want expanded playoffs which is their way to make back most of what they would be giving back to the players in terms of financial concessions. The owners also want more penalties for going over the CBT spending limits. The players want a large increase in the CBT spending levels. That measure of course would be supported by the largest market teams, but by doing that, you throw the league parity out the window. Sure, as the Braves proved last year, the highest spending teams don’t always win the World Series, but let’s face it, the highest spending teams have the best shot of making the postseason.

While Manfred and union head Tony Clark might be talking to reporters, it is deputy commissioner Dan Halem and union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer who are in the trenches. Neither can agree to anything without the requisite vote to ratify, and we are nowhere near that point.

The player leadership in the union is made up of mostly super agent, Scott Boras’ clients of which he represents five of the eight members on the MLB Players Association’s executive committee. Those five players are Zack Britton, Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Max Scherzer, and Marcus Semien. The other three players on the committee are Jason Castro, Francisco Lindor, and Andrew Miller. Not exactly what you would consider a good cross-section of players when it comes to the haves and the have-nots. That is like putting three people from Beverly Hills (Cole, Scherzer, and Lindor), and five from Newport Beach on your committee with none from Sherman Oaks.

As the stalemate pushes forward, compromise seems to be the only way to get the season started.

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