Major League Baseball plans to make a new CBA proposal to the players association Saturday with hopes of advancing discussions enough to begin spring training on time, Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press conference Thursday. It’s been 71 days since the owners instituted the lockout and the two sides remain far apart on several key issues.
As of the press conference, Manfred hadn’t yet discussed the tightening calendar with union representatives and thus wouldn’t go as far as to declare spring training would be delayed. However, pitchers and catchers would be preparing to report to camps next week in a normal offseason while the Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules are set to begin Feb. 25-26. If spring training is going to start in two weeks’ time, an agreement must be reached quickly.
With that in mind, here are the three biggest takeaways from Manfred’s press conference.
Loss of games would be ‘disastrous’
Any worst-case scenario for this lockout would involve a loss of regular-season games, a possibility that will become much more likely should the work stoppage extend into March. Manfred said MLB recognized that a three-week spring training was too short in 2020, so any kind of delay to spring training would push the schedule back rather than shrink it.
“I am an optimist and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule,” Manfred said. In response to a follow-up question, he added, “I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry and we’re committed to making an agreement in an effort to avoid that.”
Manfred also said MLB’s owners don’t “intend” to bring up minor-league players in order to fill rosters and play spring training games.
Universal DH, draft lottery all but guaranteed
This lockout to date has been characterized by both sides’ unwillingness to budge on specific issues, but two areas MLB and the players union have been able to agree on are the universal DH and a draft lottery.
“We have listened carefully throughout this negotiation and we have moved towards the players on key areas in an effort to address their concerns,” Manfred said. “We’ve proposed an agreement that is better in every respect than the expired contract. For the first time in history, and despite substantial opposition by some clubs, we’ve agreed to institute a draft lottery to address the players’ concern about clubs not competing.
“We’ve agreed to a universal designated hitter and the elimination of draft-choice compensation. These changes will improve the free agent market by creating additional jobs that are often filled by veteran players and by reducing, actually eliminating, the drag from compensation.”
It’s unlikely these concessions will be absent from future proposals made by either side, solidifying their implementation for the 2022 season and beyond.
Owning an MLB team is less profitable than the stock market?
When asked if owning an MLB team is a good investment, Manfred responded with the following:
“If you look at the purchase price of franchises, the cash that's put in during the period of ownership and then what they've sold for, historically, the return on those investments is below what you get in the stock market — what you expect to get in the stock market — with a lot more risk,” Manfred said.
According to Statista, the average value of an MLB franchise has increased more than 300% the last 10 years. Business Insider reports that global investment bank Goldman Sachs determined that 10-year stock market returns have averaged 9.2% over the last 140 years.
Those numbers simply don’t add up.