Labor negotiations broke down on Tuesday, which culminated in league commissioner Rob Manfred announcing that the first two series of the regular season have been canceled. It seemed as if discussions had progressed, but SF Giants starter Alex Wood indicated that the optimism was misleading.
SF Giants stater Alex Wood shares interesting player's side of labor negotiations
The nine-year veteran argued that the optimism was largely driven by the media so that when negotiations fell apart, the players would be left to blame. He shared his thoughts on Twitter:
Of course, fans have a lot of information at their disposal compared to previous labor negotiations, and hopefully, many could see right through this ploy. The truth remains that the player's association continues to bargain in good faith, but the same cannot be said about the owners.
Collective bargaining negotiations have been tense during this cycle as the players are demanding for better pay, fairer treatment, and improved competition. However, the owners hold a lot of the leverage in discussions as many of today's issues have carried over from previous decades.
For example, the rookie contract is typically a six-year pact. However, players have no leverage in negotiating salaries in the first three years of that contract. They are assigned a salary at the league minimum, which hovers around $575,000.00. They receive modest raises in those three seasons, but it does not typically match performance. Raising the salary for the pre-arbitration seasons is an important topic for the players.
Then, players go through the arbitration process in the final three years of that contract. During these years, players can, to an extent, negotiate their salary for the upcoming season but it still does not match performance. Of course, if you do not perform, then teams can non-tender you at no cost to them.
The player's union aimed to reduce the rookie contract to four seasons, but that was a non-starter for the owners, so the topic was dropped. This is just one concession that the players have made during labor negotiations.
Currently, the primary sticking point is the competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold. The CBT has effectively served as a "soft" salary cap in baseball. In 2021, that figure stood at $210 million and will likely see an increase next season when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is ratified.
The players want a CBT in the neighborhood of $230 million for 2022, whereas the owners only want a modest increase of $214 million. A higher CBT gives teams more flexibility to spend in free agency, which is problematic for the owners.
Team valuations and league revenues have reached historic highs in recent seasons, but the owners try to play it off like it is not profitable being a team owner. That is simply not true.
Alex Wood's comments serve as a reminder that the cautious optimism that materialized on Monday was a media ploy. The players are the ones who want baseball to return, but the owners only want it back on their own terms. The good guys are the ones on the field, not the ones in the private suites.