Better Locked Down Than Out
December 9, 2016
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As the December 1 expiration approached, Major League Baseball owners, Players’
Association, and main offices scrambled to settle upon a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
While the MLB hasn’t had a work stoppage since the 1994-95 season, the other three “Big Four”
sports leagues have all had at least one in the past decade. While some never doubted that the
groups would eventually come together for an agreement, some baseball enthusiasts were scared,
remembering the players’ strike of the mid-1990s. On the night of Nov. 30, with a lockout and
cancellation of the annual Winter Meetings for General Managers looming, the three groups
struck a deal that will be active until the offseason of 2021. Many of the changes have been
talked about for years, but some offer new insights to the way that the players and owners are
Some of the new provisions in the CBA are clearly ideas from the Players’ Association to
protect and better serve the players. Beginning in 2018, the MLB regular season will be
expanded from 183 days to 187 days. The teams will not be playing any more games, but this
will allow players to have more days off in between series, noting health concerns and playoff
fatigue. Included in this portion are also restrictions on the start time of games on the day before
travelling so the players can get to the destination faster and be more rested for the coming
The minimum Major League salary will also increase from the current $535 thousand for
the 2017 season to $555 thousand in 2019. The final two years of agreement will be based on a
cost-of- living adjustment, which highlights some uncertainty on both fronts about the movement
of our economy. In addition to this slight increase in salary, Major League teams will have to
provide all players access to a sports psychologist throughout the season. While it may seem like
the players are gaining a lot through this CBA, it also shows that owners might actually be
starting to care about the safety and well-being of their respective players. They should know
that morale in a clubhouse is almost as important as the talent on the field, and these are great
leaps to have content players.
Despite the players seemingly receiving many benefits from the new agreement, the
owners and Major League Baseball as a whole, gained their fair share of new provisions. As
baseball continues to grow at an international level, the MLB will follow the NFL’s model with
regular season games scheduled to be played abroad in places like Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the
Dominican Republic. This allows the MLB to grow the game around the world, while also
raking in some revenue as their own teams will play. Earlier this year, London Mayor, Sadiq
Khan, stated that he would love for Major League Baseball to come to London and believes that
there should be a European section of the MLB.
In regards to international players, the groups agreed upon a hard cap on spending, rather
than an international draft, which had been rumored for months. More than likely deciding
against the draft due to the lobbying of current players and protests and MLB academies in
Venezuela, each team will now be given a hard cap on a variety of factors which will likely
increase competition within the game. The Luxury Tax was introduced in the prior CBA to curb
spending and allow small market teams to compete for big name free agents. Currently, the limit
is $189 million, but many owners don’t really care if they spend over, as long as they can
assemble the best team money can buy. Now, the rates will increase each year of the CBA, as
well as have repeat offenders be forced to pay a surcharge tax added on top of the original tax.
The teams which have a payroll $40 million or more above the Tax Threshold will have their
highest selection in the draft moved back ten picks for competitive balance reasons.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement among the owners, players’ association, and
the MLB offices proves that Major League Baseball has the best labor relations in the Big Four.
And while that is always up to interpretation of what actually makes good relations, by the end of
this CBA, the MLB will have gone 27 of uninterrupted labor peace without a lockout or strike. It
might seem that rich men are just complaining with richer men about money, there are a lot of
important factors that continue to evolve such as safety and the international market that will
change the 2021 view on the CBA provisions. Right now, we can be grateful that baseball is
back and will be back for at least the next five years.