By Mark Kreidler
Special to The Examiner
Giants fans may get that look at Joey Bart sooner than we thought. With Thursday’s conclusion to an MLB lockout that fell one day short of an even 100, players are rushing to spring training camps, and the Giants should be playing games within about a week.
Here’s an overview of the new labor agreement, which is based only on what’s known publicly. Fine-point details are certain to emerge over the next couple of days.
•It’s a five-year deal.
•This year’s 162-game schedule is preserved in full. The season will start about a week late, with three days added on to the end of the schedule and a few double-headers thrown in during the summer to make up for the missing first week. (Yes, you’ll be charged full price each game for both games of a DH. The franchises didn’t all of a sudden go soft on us.)
•The Designated Hitter is now common throughout baseball.
•The playoffs have been expanded to six teams per league, so 12 teams out of MLB’s 30 franchises will make the postseason.
•The two division-winners with the best records in each league receive a bye past the Wild Card round.
•The players wanted to go to salary arbitration after two seasons of MLB experience rather than three. They didn’t get that. They did get a pre-arbitration “bonus pool” for award-winning and highest-rated rookies and second-year players. The pool works out to less than $2 million per team, but the $50 million total is roughly the midpoint of the owners’ and players’ initial asks.
•The players wanted to reach free agency in their sixth season rather than their seventh. They didn’t get that.
•The players wanted a system in place that would discourage teams from tanking. In the main, they didn’t get that. There will be a draft lottery, six teams deep, so the team with the worst record no longer is guaranteed the automatic No. 1 overall pick. It’s also possible, although unlikely, that expanding playoffs by two teams will cause many more clubs to spend on salaries trying to get in.
•The owners didn’t want the luxury-tax threshold to rise in any meaningful way. They came pretty close! The first-year threshold for the competitive balance tax is now $230 million, where it was $210 million last season. But over the full five years of the deal, it rises to a maximum of only $244 million. In other words, that ceiling isn’t rising much. Players wanted it boosted because it functions as a virtual hard cap on salaries.
•The owners wanted the universal DH and the expanded playoffs. They got both. A subset of the owners pressed for a 14-team playoff field, but even at 12, the extra TV revenue from that expansion is estimated at $85 million.
•The owners did not want salaries to improve significantly. They ultimately agreed to raise the MLB minimum pay from roughly $570k per season to $700k, escalating to $780k by 2026. These increases, while important to first- and second-year players, are trifling by owner-revenue standards.
All in all, it was a pretty good day to be an owner — all of the pillars of massive profit remain solidly in place. Players were split on the deal; their official vote, including bargaining committee members, was 26-12. The committee voted 0-8 against the deal; the 30 team reps broke 26-4 in favor. What can you say? They wanna play ball.
For now, buckle up. The free-agent frenzy is about to be unleashed – and the Giants have some work to do.
Mark Kreidler is a freelance contributor to The Examiner. Read more of his columns at https://markkreidler.substack.com