MLB Rumors: New Service Time, Free Agency Proposal Offered To Players Association
General view of baseball
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

The current collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Association expires this December, so the two sides have been engaged in early negotiations on a new deal with the hopes of avoiding a lockout next season.

The previous CBA was agreed to in November 2016 spanned from the 2017 to 2021 seasons, and there has not been an MLB lockout since 1994-95. That came at a time when there were four in-season work stoppages over a 22-year period.

Negotiations this time around figure to center heavily around possibly expanding the postseason field and free agency.

As part of the latest proposal sent to the MLBPA, the league offered to remove the six years of service time a player must accrue before they reach free agency and make all players a free agent once they turn 29.5 years old, with the cutoff dependent on if they were born before or after July 1, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

Major League Baseball, as part of its proposal to the players’ association last month, offered to curtail the impact of service time by creating a formula to disperse $1 billion to all arbitration-eligible players and make free agency universal at 29 ¹/₂ years of age, The Post has learned. … In its proposal addressing service time, MLB was, at minimum, looking to address the union’s concern about service-time manipulation.

What MLB proposed was to create a $1 billion pool (and to tie that pool total to revenue in future years) for all eligible players, to replace arbitration. A formula would be created to determine how much players would receive. Arbitration-eligible players received roughly $650 million for this season.

The proposal was made as an attempt to address the MLBPA’s concerns over service time manipulation. That was of particular note when the Chicago Cubs left Kris Bryant in the Minors just long enough for him to reach a full year of service time back in 2015, which delayed him in reaching free agency.

While this kind of proposal would benefit late bloomers such as Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, it would have a negative impact on those who get called up at a younger age.

Such a format could give a team an extra three years of control over some of the bright young stars in the game.

There would also be concerns that fewer teams each season are looking to give out large contracts to players who will be in their 30s for the duration of the deal, which would end up allowing teams to underpay players during their prime and also underpay them once they are eligible for free agency.

Previous MLB proposal

In a previous proposal the league made to the MLBPA, the offer included a salary floor and new tax structure for payrolls.

The proposed plan would lower the tax threshold from $210 million to $180 million, and the tax penalty would rise, however, the minimum payroll would be set to $100 million.

While that proposal could allow more players to get higher salaries, it would also cap the salaries of the highest-paid players, which would only result in more money going to the team owners.

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