Nearly three months into the lockout, Major League Baseball and the Players Association do not appear to be close on reaching a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) any time soon and appear more likely by the day to play another shortened regular season.
Team owners claim they are frustrated by a lack of transparency from where the players stand on multiple issues, however, with financial proposals drastically different from each side, that remains the key hurdle.
The players have made concessions around service time and arbitration, as well as with the Draft lottery, but they remain upset with the owners for how far apart the two sides are.
Los Angeles Dodgers union representative Walker Buehler was the latest player to express his frustration with the owners in a pair of now-deleted tweets, astutely noting the owners’ offer doesn’t even keep up with inflation:
PLEASE tell me how what we, the players, are asking for is crazy? Inflation happens. Markets rise. Money grows. Ask our owners. They know. Why would we agree to less than even inflation level income rises? Would you take that?
Buehler followed up his original tweet by calling this an issue of labor versus ownership and thanked the fans who understand why they don’t give in to MLB’s demands of more pay cuts:
This isn’t millionaires vs billionaires. This is workers vs owners. The value is subjective. We are EXTREMELY lucky to do what we do but the numbers don’t line up. I appreciate the fans getting where we are coming from. Truly.
During the 2021 season, the competitive balance tax (CBT), which acts as a de facto salary cap for the sport, was set to $210 million. Under the owners’ current offers, the number would rise to just $214 million in 2022.
To keep up with the United State’s 7.5% inflation, the luxury tax threshold for this season would need to be around $225 million; thus making an offer of $214 million essentially a pay cut for the players.
This number also doesn’t consider revenue has been rising every year outside of the pandemic-impacted 2020 season and will continue to do so even more. Despite the increased revenue, the average payroll across MLB has dropped by around 5% since their previous high in 2017.
MLB’s new television deal also begins in 2022 and guarantees at least $100 million each season to every team.
Along with the TV deals, MLB teams also receive extra money through revenue sharing. Each team pools 48% of the revenue they earn and the total amount is then split evenly (3.3% of the total) and given to each team. Teams receive more than $110 million through revenue sharing.
Buehler debunks ‘billionaires vs. millionaires’ MLB myth
While the top players in the sport do make millions, roughly 68% of the players protected by the MLBPA earn less than $1 million each season. A lot of the players need income, such as those on a 40-man roster who have yet to make their MLB debut and earn less than $45,000 annually.
But pretending it is truly a “millionaire versus billionaire” debate, those figures are still so astronomically different it shouldn’t be relevant. If someone made $1 per second, it would take 11 days and a few hours to reach one million. At the same rate, it would take around 31 years to reach one billion.
As the players look to get raises for younger players in the league, they are seeking a minimum $775,000 salary and a $115 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. MLB has countered at $640,000 and a $20 million bonus pool.
While core economics remains the largest hurdle, there have been some agreements already made, including the universal designated hitter and a Draft lottery system. However, some details still need to be worked out.
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