MLB’s proposal to the players’ association included changes to the service time structure

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Major League Baseball proposed a drastic change to the league’s service time structure during collective bargaining with the MLB Players Association last month, New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports. The league’s proposal included an offer to make players eligible for free will at the age of 29.5. It was also a $ 1 billion pool (which would be tied to income in future seasons) that would be dispersed indefinitely to replace the current arbitration system.

Both features were part of a larger package proposal the league made to MLBPA in mid-August, which Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal said also included lowering the first threshold of the luxury tax at $ 180 million and the institution in the amount of $ 100 million. salary floor. Much of that proposal is still unclear, although the lowered tax thresholds alone seem to make it a failure for the Players Association, which is expected to largely push for higher tax thresholds in the next CBA.

The current ACA is due to expire on December 1, giving the parties three months to continue negotiating before the current agreement expires. (It’s not entirely clear what kind of impact such a scenario would have on the offseason if it materialized, as teams were still allowed to trade the last time the CBA expired without a new deal. ). It seems likely that these talks will resume in earnest as we get closer to winter, but the interim reports offer some insight into how these more serious negotiations might take shape.

MLB’s offer to base free agency qualification on age addresses player concerns about the manipulation of service time. Under the current system, players first qualify for free agency at the end of the season in which they accumulate six full years of MLB service. A full year of service is calculated as 172 days, which means players first promoted to the big leagues at the end of April of their rookie season are just below that benchmark. It is no coincidence that various top prospects have been held in the miners until just past this cutoff point in recent seasons, ensuring that their teams essentially gain a seventh year of control over the player.

In an age-based system, there would be no incentive for teams to keep prospects beyond the time they are deemed ready to play at the major league level. It would also be a boon for late bloomers, many of whom have to wait until their 30s – and potentially after their physical peaks – to market their services in the league. Sherman quotes Yankees star Aaron Judge – whose free agency schedule would have accelerated from the next offseason to this winter if eligibility was set at 29.5 – as an example of a player who could benefit from such a change.

That said, setting the qualifying age for free agencies at 29.5 would have a negative effect on many of the game’s top stars. It is not uncommon for the sport’s brightest young talents to reach the big leagues. in their early twenties despite the existing duty time structure. These players will often reach free agency before they turn 29, which will prepare them well for landing long mega-deals. For reference, three of the top four players in the most recent MLBTR Free Agent Power rankings – Carlos correa, Corey seager and Trevor’s story – would not be eligible for free will this offseason if it was only granted to players 29.5 years of age and over.

So while an age-based system would benefit some players, it would likely reduce the earning potential of some of the best free agents in the game – many of whom are making market reset deals precisely because they are young enough to. shop multiple premium seasons. – performance age. The extremely talented young players who are most likely to land high-end contracts are also the most likely to be affected in the first place by the manipulation of serve time.

This makes it all the more difficult to find an age that the league would find enjoyable that significantly changes the outlook for free agency for these players. For example, Kris Bryant – whose delayed promotion in 2015 pushed his free agency back until this winter and led the MLBPA to file a high-profile service time grievance on his behalf – would not have reached free agency until this offseason, regardless if the qualifying age was set at 29.5 years. This is not to say that the age threshold proposed by MLB could not be changed in future negotiations, but it also demonstrates that basing free agency eligibility on age is not inherently a universal benefit for the players.

As with free agencies, eligibility for arbitration is currently determined by service time. Under the current system, players qualify for refereeing after reaching three years of MLB service. Players within 22% of service among those between two and three years old will also reach refereeing as Super Two qualifiers. If the team and the player cannot agree on a salary, this is decided by a panel of referees, who use comparable player salaries often based on traditional statistics.

This can cause a slight mismatch between referee values ​​and teams’ player ratings, which are often based on more advanced analytical data. Umpires’ heavy reliance on traditional metrics may fuel non-bidding for players whose box scoring stats (e.g., homers, RBI, pitchers wins) are more impressive than type of formula. A team’s “wins over substitution” or Statcast data.

On the surface, it looks like the refereeing overhaul or replacement could be a positive endeavor for players. Sherman estimates players eligible for arbitration made around $ 650 million in the last offseason, so the $ 1 billion pool would be a pretty significant increase. But Sherman also notes that an income-based pooling system could be seen by the MLBPA as too much like a salary cap – something the union has consistently rejected. It is also unclear how this money would be distributed or how eligibility for arbitration would be determined if the parties abandoned time-of-service considerations.

Sherman also offers additional information on the league’s proposal. While the MLB offer included a lower luxury first tax threshold, the league was willing to remove increasing penalties for repeat taxpayers. The current ACA requires teams to pay a 20% tax on the first twenty million dollars above the lowest luxury threshold. This tax rises to 30% for teams that exceed the threshold in two consecutive years and rises to 50% for teams that exceed the threshold in three or more consecutive years.

The increasing penalties have led some spending teams to perform a tax reset. A team that crosses the threshold in the first year has an added incentive to drop below for a year and reset their penalty range before returning above the mark the following season. It seemed especially important this season for the Yankees and Astros, who both crossed the threshold in 2020 but appear to have fallen just below the mark this season.

It bears repeating that MLB and MLBPA are in the very early stages of negotiation. Drellich and Rosenthal previously reported that MLBPA made its first offer in May, and last month’s proposal was the league’s first. The full terms of both parties’ initial offers remain unclear. There should be a lot more back-and-forth parts that will emerge over the coming weeks and months.


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