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SnakePit Round Table: The Art of Falling Apart

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MLB: DEC 02 Major League Baseball Lockout Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What do you see as the state of CBA negotiations?

Jack: Hard to say of course. On the one hand, it seems like if Manfred can get the owners unified they could have a fairly quick breakthrough. On the other hand, the owners are not incentivized to get a deal until they’ve missed 20 or so games as that’s when they really start to lose revenue from TV contracts. The players are dug in for a while, with the union offering stipends of 15K per month starting in April. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to hold the lower paid players over for a while. I think the current state of impasse remains unchanged for at least a few more weeks.

Makakilo: Let’s look at the CBA from a Diamondbacks perspective.

Competitive balance in the NL West. A higher threshold for CBT allows the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants to spend more, even in season’s that they may not reach the World Series. And in season when they go for it, the higher threshold will provide less funding to the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks’ ability to reach the playoffs would be reduced significantly by a higher threshold for the CBT.

Financial impact. The new CBA will cost the Diamondbacks between $2.32 Million and $3.76 Million more per season (comparing 2026 to 2021). A tremendously large caveat is that lacking proprietary business and procedure information, the accuracy of my estimates (which were based on internet articles and jumping to conclusions) is very questionable:

  • Raising pre-arb salaries. I assumed the Diamondbacks average 16 pre-arb players. The CBA will increase pre-arb salary from $570,000 in 2021 to between $740,000 and $805,000 in 2026, with increased Diamondbacks salary costs between $2.72 and $3.76 Million per season.
  • If threshold for CBT is raised, my estimated $29.2 Million tax (about $1 Million of which would go to the Diamondbacks per my assumptions) could drop to zero, worst case.
  • Playoff expansion from 10 teams to (12/14) teams. Optimistically, with this expansion the Diamondbacks will make the playoffs one extra time in the next 5 years. Playoff revenue is split between the teams that qualify and the players on those teams. In the year the Diamondbacks make the playoffs, my estimate is the Diamondback team will make an extra $5 to $7 Million. That is an average of $1 to $1.4 Million per year.

Service time impact. If less than 162 games are played, it could have an unbelievably huge impact on how much the Diamondbacks pay their players. I’m NOT talking about salary savings for games missed. I’m talking about not crediting players for service time when they miss games. For example, if the season is shortened by 18 days, players would receive 0.1 years less service time. There are 23 Diamondbacks for which that reduction could be enough to delay their arbitration and free agency by a year. My estimate (above caveat plus a caveat about how much retained Diamondbacks players improve prior to free agency) is that 18 days less service time could reduce Diamondbacks payroll by an average of $3 Million per season.

My two conclusions:

  • The new CBA will be affordable for the Diamondbacks, but may further harm competitive balance in the NL West.
  • In my view, as the season is shortened, service time becomes an issue as large or larger than everything that has been negotiated so far.

ISH95: From the outside looking in, it seems like it’s in shambles. MLB giving a “last, best offer” (which was seen by some as a preliminary step to declaring an impasse which would lead to the Labor Board getting involved) which when you account for inflation is actually a worse deal for the players than the last CBA. Meanwhile, the MLBPA hasn’t even responded in writing to the most recent offer. They also announced that they are donating 1 million dollars to stadium workers and others who are losing their jobs due to the lockout. Neither side is giving in any time soon.

(Update: they met for about half an hour this afternoon and the MLBPA did finally provide a written response)

Steven: From what the media is relaying, it feels like a mountain between the two sides and the players are the ones taking concessions in order to get a season started. The owners want their money now and later when they sell the team and are willing to do anything, including miss games to make it happen. I just hope they don’t give in.

Does canceling regular season games change the situation?

Jack: It changes everything for everyone. Especially the fans.

Makakilo: Jack is on target. The pressure to reach an agreement will grow as games are lost because if the season is lost, everybody loses.

ISH95: I don’t think so. I really don’t think either side was planning on getting this done in time for a 162 game season, so it changes little to nothing.

Steven: It’s not a good look, and the owners are going to use every outlet they have to blame the players for missing games. I sure hope the MLBPA continues to hold strong. All players, both now and in the future, deserve it.

Ken Kendrick was reported as an owner opposed to increasing the luxury tax threshold. Why do you think that is?

Jack: The higher the luxury tax, the more the Dodgers can spend without having to pay a tax that gets redistributed to teams like Arizona. It makes it harder for teams like Arizona to compete, AND reduces their revenue. I maintain my opinion that the union should give more on the CBT and take a hard line on raising the minimum and getting the bonus pool for pre arb players as big as possible.

Makakilo: It’s about competitive balance in the NL West (see my previous comment).

ISH95: (redacted so Jack doesn’t lose press access)

I will add though that not only would the CBT increasing decrease the tax money that gets redistributed to him, it would also in general increase the average cost of WAR, which would reduce his profits further

Steven: If Ken had his way he’d pay league minimum for every guy on his roster. This list shows he’s 3rd from the bottom on this list of owner’s net worth. I have a feeling Ken isn’t doing so hot in the finance category.

Who will blink first? Players or management?

Jack: The union already blinked and made a lot of concessions. MLB blew them off anyway.

Makakilo: Let’s look at each side’s perspective:

Manfred wrote this Letter to Fans. Management’s view is that they listened to what players and fans wanted so they could propose solutions. They are working to avoid a repeat of the 1994 strike that canceled the World Series. Management’s view is that they are fair and reasonable and care about everyone.

The players’ view is that they are right and good, and management is wrong and evil. Players are victims of past agreements who deserve a greatly improved agreement with black-hatted management.

Recently, a source told The Athletic that players are angry that a management proposal included food cost paid to players in calculating the payroll for CBT purposes. On the surface that makes management sound like black hats. The Athletic article included a response from the commissioner’s office. Their response showed the players’ anger to be entirely disconnected from the reality of the situation. The players responded to the response. My view of the players’ response was that we disagree but we will not tell you why. We will continue to be angry and we will not listen to reality.

In summary, neither side will blink, ever. Nevertheless, I predict the season will start in June.

ISH95: The Union. They have more to lose, and as Jack has pointed out, already have several times

Steven: Unfortunately the players. The owners don’t care about baseball, it’s just a revenue making project for these guys and they don’t make money with players getting to free agency with fuller pockets and at younger ages.

Predict when Opening Day happens.

Jack: After May 15th

Makakilo: My June prediction is unchanged. Initially my prediction appeared pessimistic and now it appears realistic and maybe optimistic.

ISH95: On a day ending in Y, but probably in June

Steven: No baseball will be played this year.

What is the most annoying sound you can hear?

Makakilo: Saturday morning I was having a great dream about driving a snowmobile through deep snow up a mountain. I was with two friends who were driving their snowmobiles up the mountain. It was great fun. Then my alarm woke me. More than the type of sound, any sound that interrupts such a great dream is annoying. In case you wondered, I set my alarm so I could volunteer early in the morning, and I have never driven a snowmobile except in my imagination.

ISH95: Those mufflers that are designed to sound like the car doesn’t have a muffler.

Jack: The chop chant in Atlanta