On the salaries of MLB’s ‘disposable pitchers’

A day in the majors isn’t worth what happens to the salary of this new class of churned-through pitcher.

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Last week, I shared a Baseball Prospectus story written by Jarrett Seidler and Rob Mains on the rise of the “disposable pitcher.” A trend has emerged, with teams calling up a pitcher — a not-really-a-prospect kind of pitcher — on the 40-man roster up from the minors for a very temporary stay in the majors, and then designating them for assignment after they’re done with them rather than optioning them back to the minors. This allows for them to, effectively, stream a 40-man roster spot for additional call-ups like this down the road, while also allowing them to avoid exposing any genuine prospects to the majors or the need to be optioned before they feel like those players are ready for the show.

As I wrote last Friday:

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It feels like MLB is trying to force a signing deadline

MLB can’t get a salary cap, but they’ve got other ideas for artificially depressing free agent spending.

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It’s March 6. Major League Baseball is weeks into spring training now, and yet, some of the top free agents are still sitting there by the phone, waiting to be signed. It’s a real problem, but what the problem is, exactly, is not something that the league and the Players Association agree on.

MLB wants to institute a signing deadline, for all free agent activity, that’ll create “flurried,” short-term activity in the offseason. They’ve even proposed such a deadline to the union, which was not interested in that kind of arrangement, and have since brought up the fact they proposed it as if it would have been a true solution to the issue. Alden Gonzalez recently wrote about all of this for ESPN:

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Dodgers’ stadium workers protest, threaten strike

Dodgers’ stadium workers — not the concessioners from last year — are threatening a strike while working under an expired contract.

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Back in April, stadium workers at the Pirates’ PNC Park threatened to go on strike if their demands weren’t met. The Pirates had stopped negotiating with these employees, so this was the last recourse available to the ushers, ticket takers, and ticket sellers: the team averted the strike by reaching a tentative deal before it was set to occur, and while I didn’t love said deal, the threat at least got the team to respond.

Now, Dodgers’ stadium workers will try their luck with a similar tactic, which also follows Dodger Stadium concession workers successfully negotiating a new deal in 2022. Those workers, part of UNITE HERE, threatened to strike the All-Star Game, which would have been a serious issue for the Dodgers as hosts, given the magnitude of the midsummer classic on the schedule. The strike threat convinced someone on the management side to get back to the table, whether it was Compass/Levy, the concessioners that employ the union members, or someone from the Dodgers screaming in someone from Compass/Levy’s ear about it since it was going to impact them — either way, it worked.

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No ‘information bank’ for free agents, says MLB’s deputy commissioner

That doesn’t mean teams will stop operating in bad faith, but it’s still nice to see the union extract this kind of thing in writing.

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The 2022-2026 MLB collective bargaining agreement has been active for over a year now, but the official, finalized version of it only recently became thus — once everything was translated into acceptable legalese. And, there are other reasons to discuss it at this point in time as well. For instance, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem sent a letter to the executive director of the Players Association, Tony Clark, stating that there would be no “information bank” kept by the league for free agents. It’s not just a letter, either, as it’s an attachment in the current CBA, which was recently made available to read online once it was all official.

There’s not much to it, either, as this is the entirety of said letter, found on page 207 of the CBA:

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The first MiLB CBA could be ratified by Friday

If the players and MLB’s owners agree that this is the deal, the first-ever MiLB CBA will be ratified before their Opening Day.

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By midnight entering Friday, the first-ever Minor League Baseball collective bargaining agreement could be ratified. It’s already been initially agreed to by the negotiating parties: now, the larger minor-league player base and MLB’s owners have to vote and agree to what’s been bargained. It’s a historic moment, and one that might take a little time to see some of the effects of —both because these things don’t come to light all at once and because there are some larger, structural changes that are going to take time to see the full effects of — though there are also immediate changes that are far more obvious.

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No one is ‘circumventing’ the luxury tax threshold

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Thanks to a rumor about the Padres considering a 14-year, $400 million contract to then-free agent Aaron Judge, there have been some rumblings about how Major League Baseball would have reacted to such a deal. Jon Heyman reported at the New York Post that, “sources say they would not have been allowed, as MLB would have seen the additional years as only an attempt to lower their official payroll to lessen the tax.” That’s just one side of any conversation on this, though: MLB might have tried to get rid of it, and are within their rights to given that circumventing the threshold goes against the collective bargaining agreement, but what are the chances that the Players Association would have allowed them to do so, and what are the chances MLB would have successfully erased the deal when challenged on it?

My guess is “not good,” and Ken Rosenthal’s own reporting echoes that:

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Minor League collective bargaining has begun

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Well, it’s actually happening. There is a minor-league sub-unit of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and they’ve officially entered into the collective bargaining process with the league, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. The two sides — the players once again represented by Bruce Meyer, the league by deputy commissioner Dan Halem — “made presentations for their respective sides,” which is how these things open, especially when there is no existing CBA to work off of.

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MLB’s labor dispute is over. MLB’s labor dispute will never end.

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but labor peace is a lie. A new collective bargaining agreement shouldn’t be considered the dawn of an era of peace, but more like a temporary ceasefire, until the next escalation brings the two sides to full-blown conflict once more. That’s not the kind of verbiage you’ll hear from either side — MLB because, like any monopolistic power, likes to pretend they aren’t the aggressors, and the Players Association because they have to live side-by-side with those aggressors until the next time. If you never take a step back, and are always publicly fighting, you’ll simply fatigue fans and the media who stir them up. Given that Thursday’s new CBA marks the end of a dispute that began essentially the moment MLB started jumping through the loopholes of the previous agreement, well… it’s time to quietly plan for 2027, and save the loud parts for later.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Players Association won a stunning victory with the new agreement, but considering they were fighting from underneath the entire time — the damage from the 2011 and 2016 CBAs, especially, had them coming into this bout far from at their best — reaching a time-limit draw with the league is still somewhat remarkable. What matters now — or, later, really — is what happens in 2027.

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Bargaining is ongoing, but a 14-team postseason might be dead

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There is little point in discussing the reports on the collective bargaining tax threshold at this particular moment, as this is being written during an overnight pause in negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA — the PA is speaking to its board in the morning before submitting a counter to MLB’s late-night offer. What did pop out that seems like it could stick, though, is that the league seems to have finally given up on an expanded postseason model that includes 14 teams.

Now, nothing is definite at this stage: the league could request to go back to 14 teams in their proposals, just like the PA did when they re-raised the pre-arbitration bonus pool amount to $115 million after making changes elsewhere. But the fact that MLB was willing to even entertain the idea of sticking with just 12 teams is a bit of positive news, for those who felt further expansion — unwelcome expansion — was an inevitability.

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If MLB’s owners wanted a deal, they have a funny way of showing it

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It should have been obvious that Major League Baseball and the Players Association were not close to a deal on Monday night. Still, though, fans can hardly be blamed for letting their optimism be abused by league sources and overly credulous media members; after all, they just wanted to watch some baseball when they expected to be able to watch some baseball, and belief that a deal was imminent helped to keep that particular dream alive.

The league leaned on their favorite reliable mouthpieces and also the likes of Bob Nightengale, who has, let’s say, something of a reputation for hurrying information out on Twitter without vetting it as much as it should be, in a way that isn’t necessarily reflected in his longer form published work, in order to inflate this sense that a deal was imminent — the idea, as was more plainly revealed the next afternoon, was that the league wanted to be able to act as if a deal was close until the players decided to instead face God and walk backwards into hell.

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