Rosenthal: Exploring the MLB Players Association’s top priorities, and how they might achieve them

DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 13: The National League All-Stars stand during the Stand Up 2 Cancer moment during the 91st MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field on July 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
By Ken Rosenthal Feb 16, 2022 286
You hear it all the time. Players want a fair deal, one that will give them a greater share of Major League Baseball’s revenues and enable them to recover some of what they lost over the past decade.

The specific changes that would best enhance the players’ position, however, remain a subject of debate. Even adjustments to the collective-bargaining agreement that appear to be obvious improvements might produce unintended consequences, and prove less beneficial than expected.

The question that matters most, for both players and owners, is this: What is the path to making the most money? To this point, the sides are discussing two ways for players to receive concrete increases, through raises in the minimum salary and a newly created pre-arbitration bonus pool. The league improved its offers in both those areas in its most recent proposal, though not to the union’s satisfaction. The union calculates the two elements to be worth less than $45 million, basing that assessment on the league’s offer of tiered upgrades to the minimum salary rather than its alternate proposal for a single jump.

Other gains the players seek, from reduced service-time manipulation to adjustments in the luxury tax system, are intended to incentivize competition, which, theoretically, creates more money for players. In recent years, though, clubs have proven adept at minimizing payouts in areas where they are not required to spend, effectively gaming the system. Some on the players’ side fear the teams will continue that practice under a new CBA, finding ways to turn the terms to their advantage or exaggerating the ways they will benefit players.

The introduction of a universal DH, for example, likely will not be as lucrative for the union as it might have been in previous decades, when teams were more inclined to use a single, high-priced DH.