MLB-MLBPA Deal Clears Way For Early Discussion Of Labor Issues
MLB and the MLBPA today announced a deal that will implement several changes to the game starting this season, but the "most important" aspect of the deal is the provision that the two sides "will begin discussing labor issues imminently," according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. That means talks would begin "far earlier than they typically would with a CBA that doesn't expire" until December '21. Sources said that those discussions "will center on the game's most fundamental economic tenets -- not only free agency but other macro issues with deep consequences." Negotiations over distribution of revenue "could be the most difficult gap to bridge, with teams clearly paring back spending on aging players while players chafe at the notion that those 30 and older are no longer worthy of the deals they received in the past." While a compromise "could be reached in distributing more money to the younger players whom the current system underpays, the complications of doing so warrant a long runway for discussions." Other subjects to be discussed include the "manipulation of service time that keeps the best prospects in the minor leagues to begin a season, the luxury-tax threshold that some believe discourages spending, and the gathering of biometric data that has become commonplace among major league teams" (ESPN.com, 3/13). NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra notes the fact the MLBPA is "willing to agree to these talks strongly suggests that its leadership believes that the league will, in fact, engage on pocketbook matters in a meaningful way" (NBCSPORTS.com, 3/14).
TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes as part of the MLB-MLBPA deal, committees "will be appointed by the Commissioner's office and the union to formally discuss the game's economic concerns." They will "study ways to make the free-agent market more active" and also "discuss eliminating the incentive for teams from purposely losing to gain top draft picks." Among the "several major rule changes" are that pitchers will be "required to face a minimum of three batters in a game" beginning in '20. There will also be a "single July 31 trade deadline" starting this season, as well as an "All-Star election day starting this summer where fans can determine the starting players in the All-Star Game with 24-hour voting." Other rule changes include the Home Run Derby now paying $1M to the winning player and commercial breaks during innings being "shortened by 20 seconds to 2 minutes" (USATODAY.com, 3/14).
WORK TO BE DONE: On Long Island, Tim Healey notes high-ranking MLBPA officials, including Exec Dir Tony Clark, met with Mets players yesterday during their Spring Training tour and discovered "mounting frustration about what the players perceive as a system being manipulated increasingly out of their favor." A potential work stoppage "is a ways away," but it remains "something players are talking about." Mets LF and player rep Michael Conforto said, "Nobody wants that. MLB doesn't want that, and we don't want that either. Nobody wants baseball to stop. But no matter what happens, we (the players) are going to stick together." Healey notes Conforto "inherited the job" of the team's union rep when P Matt Harvey was traded last season. Harvey suggested to then-Mets P Jerry Blevins -- who is "heavily involved" with the union -- that Conforto "take his spot, thus keeping it in the Scott Boras family." Conforto this spring has made an effort "to familiarize himself with the MLBPA goings-on, including a recent dinner with union bosses and players who train near" the Mets' Spring Training facility (NEWSDAY, 3/14).