Cubs union representative Ian Happ said Thursday that players hoping for substantive dialogue on core economic issues found it “disappointing” that the MLB owners’ negotiating team included no economic proposals among the changes they proposed for a new collective bargaining agreement in the days before MLB locked out the players.
Reps for the owners and union, including several players, met in Dallas over a three-day period leading up to the Dec. 1 expiration of the last CBA — and long-anticipated lockout by owners that followed the next day.
“I think it’s important to clarify some of the mixed messages out there,” Happ said during one of his regular appearances on WSCR-670 on Thursday, apparently alluding to reports that suggested owners had made economic proposals to players leading up to those meetings.
“One of the most disappointing parts about the trip to Dallas … is the owners didn’t make one economic proposal the entire time we were there,” Happ said, adding that players brought an economic proposal the second day of those meetings that “looped in” some of the non-economic issues owners had proposed the day before — including draft details and expanded playoffs.
“And we didn’t get anything back,” he said. “We didn’t get anything that said, ‘OK, here’s our proposal in the same realm; here’s how we get to a conclusion and move forward.’
“Without having that — anybody who’s been through a negotiation, whether it’s a car or a house or anything — you don’t just keep giving numbers and have the other person say no,” he added. “You don’t just keep moving off your position.
“That’s a horrible way to negotiate. We’re just disappointed that there was no economic proposal brought forth by that side in Dallas.”
Among the high priority economic issues for players include disincentives for tanking, a 10-year trend in the sport over the last two CBAs that has effectively suppressed overall free agent markets and caused a decline in average salaries for the first time in more than three decades (pre-pandemic).
Achieving substantive increases in the largely stagnant luxury-tax thresholds over the last two CBAs, relative to industry-revenue increases, also is a key to making many of the players’ proposals on service-time and free agency issues work.
“The difficult part about being in the negotiating room is that as people take things off the table, there’s just no negotiation there,” Happ said. “There’s core principles and core foundations that are work-stoppage issues for both sides, but if every issue is a work-stoppage issue, then you can’t negotiate. That’s not how it works.
“The big thing for players, the big thing we’re discussing, is a way to make the system more competitive, a way to do away with service-time manipulation, to have penalties for manipulating service time so that fans are getting to see the best players in the league as soon as they’re ready,” he added, “so that teams are competing all the way throughout the season, so that teams are trying to win games in August and September instead of a race to the bottom to get draft picks. So that teams are trading for good players at the deadline, teams are going out and competing in free agency to put good team out there and not losing three, four, five seasons in a row.
“You should get penalized for being a bad team for that many years in a row and not trying. And you should be rewarded if you’re a small-market team and you go and make the playoffs, and you spend money to do it. You should be rewarded with a draft pick. You should be rewarded for going out and competing and putting a product out there that your fans want to see.
“That’s what the players want, and I think the fans can really understand why the game needs to trend in that direction instead of [annually having] 10 to 15 teams that are trying not to compete and competing for draft picks.”