NEW YORK -- Negotiators for baseball players and owners are meeting this week in Irving, Texas, in an attempt to reach agreement on a collective bargaining agreement to replace the five-year contract that expires Thursday. After eight work stoppages from 1972-95, baseball has had 21 years of labor peace.
Some of the issues in negotiations:
FREE AGENCY COMPENSATION
Compensation for the loss of free agents has been an issue since the free-agent era began in 1976. The statistical ranking system established in the 1981 strike settlement was scrapped in the current agreement that began with the 2012-13 offseason and replaced by qualifying offers: A team would be entitled to draft-pick compensation if a player left as a free agent after failing to accept a one-year contract for the average salary among the 125 highest-paid players ($17.2 million this year) and the signing club would lose a top pick. Five of 64 free agents who received qualifying offers accepted during the current agreement, and some less-than-premier free agents who received offers said their market was limited by teams not wanting to give up draft selections.
INTERNATIONAL AMATEUR DRAFT
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said restraints on contracts for international amateur players have not been as effective as management had hoped, and he is a proponent of an international draft that would cover residents outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The union has been resistant.
CURRENT AMATEUR DRAFT
Teams spent $234 million in the 2011 draft on amateurs residing in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The total dropped to $209 million in the first year of restraints, went up to $220 million the following year, then rose to $224 million in 2014, $249 million in 2015 and $268 million this year. The sides are negotiating the slot figures used to determine signing bonus pools and the penalties for exceeding pools. Some have expressed concern that the slot values early in the first round encourage a team not headed to the postseason to tank in the final weeks to get higher draft picks and a larger signing bonus pool.
One of the last items in the negotiations will be the luxury tax. The threshold for the tax has been $189 million for the past three years, and for the past four years, the rate has been 17.5 percent for the first time over the threshold, increasing to 30 percent for the second time in a row, 40 percent for the third and 50 percent for the fourth or subsequent. An increase to $200 million or more is likely, which should lead to greater spending by high-revenue teams currently at or above the threshold. The union and some teams would like the rate to reset for all teams in 2017.
The sides have discussed an increase from 25 active to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31. In an effort to keep late-season rules closer to the ones used for most of the season, the active limit would decrease from 40 to 28 or 29 from Sept. 1 through the end of regular season.
DRUG AGREEMENT AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Management proposed changes that would make rules stricter in both the joint drug agreement of 2014 and the domestic violence agreement of 2015.
Concerned about players getting run down, the sides discussed a possible extension of the season from 183 days to 187 days. That appears unlikely, but there probably will be more restrictions on the scheduling of night games on getaway days.
PACE OF PLAY
Management would like to have pitch clocks, which have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons, and restrictions on trips to the mound. Players generally have resisted any changes to the natural flow of the game.
Expect a rise in the minimum salary, which was $507,500 in the major leagues last season and $82,700 for a minor league player on a 40-man big league roster for at least a second season and $41,400 for a first.
The sides have discussed changes to the revenue-sharing rules, which included a market disqualification test that prevented both teams from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago from receiving any revenue-sharing money in 2016, along with Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Texas, Toronto and Washington.
Under the current agreement, the top 22 percent of players by service time of those with two or more years of major league service and less than three are eligible for arbitration, along with players with at least three years but less than six. Change in eligibility has not gotten much attention.
Management has discussed a ban on the use of smokeless tobacco during games. The union has resisted, maintaining that using smokeless tobacco is legal and a matter of individual choice, but in the 2012-16 agreement the union did agree that players may not carry tobacco packages and tins in their back pockets when fans are permitted in the ballpark, and players may not use tobacco during pregame or postgame interviews, and at team functions.