Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball's Players Association reportedly reached an agreement on Wednesday evening to form a new collective bargaining agreement.
According to Yahoo! Sport's Jeff Passan, the deal will extend another five years and will include some interesting details. There are a number of take aways that one can extract from this news, but, first and foremost, let me saw how happy I am that the two sides have avoided a labour stoppage.
When it comes to these discussions on our morning sports highlights, many sports fans groan at the tediousness of the news hoping it ends quickly rather than having to hear about which side is fighting over percentages of revenue, international drafts and other fine print information that only the in-depth fans realistically care about. But the two sides do need to be applauded for continuing an amicable relationship that hasn't had a work stoppage in over 20 years. When you look at other professional leagues such as the NHL (two work stoppages in that time), the NBA (four work stoppages) and the NFL (one work stoppage without missing games), you'll understand just how remarkable it is that the MLB and MLBPA continually get the job done without it hurting the viewer.
That said, there are some highlights to the new CBA that will interest baseball fans, particularly those cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays.
- There won't be a 26th roster spot, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Teams will carry 25-man rosters, which will still be eligible to expand in September.
- The luxury tax threshold is expected to be close to $195 million next season and increase to between $210 and $215 million over the five-year span.
- Teams over that threshold will be forced to part with a second and fifth round pick to sign a free agent who declined a qualifying offer, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. Teams under that threshold will part with a third round pick. Those changes will be implemented next offseason, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.
First off, the lack of an addition to the current 25-man roster isn't really a big deal. Sure, it may have helped, employing 30 more players per season (likely mostly relief pitchers), but at the end of the day, if it means having to watch one less John Gibbons trot to the mound per game, I'm more than okay with that.
Second, the luxury tax. According to Spotrac, the Blue Jays spent a total of $176,509,600 on their active payroll last season, which was under the luxury tax under the expired CBA. With many holes on their roster still to fill, it's likely the Jays are still going to be well under the luxury threshold next season and for years to come.
The importance of this CBA though almost certainly falls on the elimination of teams sacrificing a first-round draft pick to sign free agents who have declined a qualifying offer. Not only did that process under the former CBA hurt free agents like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, it made free agency a trudge of a process rather than an exciting time with the possibility of a swath of roster changes.
The process will only begin to take place next offseason, meaning that the Jays will still receive first-round picks for both Bautista and Encarnacion if they elect to sign with other clubs prior to the 2017 draft. Of course, that also means they would still sacrifice a pick if they truly are in love with Dexter Fowler and ink him to a contract for next season.
One interesting angle this opens is the very remote possibility of Bautista re-signing to a one-year contract to improve his value and hit free agency in 2017 with no draft pick attached to him. Let me be clear, there is absolutely no rumours that players like he and Mark Trumbo are even considering this idea. But maybe they should.
Coming off his worst season in a Blue Jays uniform in 2016, Bautista is almost certainly to have a higher value next season. Sure, he will be a year older at 37 years old (young?) but with a season proving he can be the player he thinks he is, teams may be more willing to put a couple more dollars on his paycheck. Fangraphs' Steamer projections estimates his value for next season a 2.9 fWAR, more than twice his 2016 fWAR of 1.4. If he would be willing to sign a one-year deal in the neighbourhood of say $18-20 million, would the Jays be interested?
Stranger things have happened right?...right?
In the amateur market, the decision to impose hard caps on international free agent spending could have a dramatic positive benefit for the Blue Jays in the future. Under the former CBA, teams operated under a soft cap system where they were penalized for going over but had no limit on how far exactly they exceeded the limit. That, for example, lead to teams massively overpaying for players like Yoan Moncada who received $31.5 million from the Red Sox.
Under the new agreement, teams will operate under a hard cap between $4.75 million and $5.75 million per team based on market size. While this addition will serve as an equalizing measure for all teams, it will have a particular effect on the Blue Jays who haven't historically been proponents of overspending on the international market. Essentially, the new agreement won't force the Jays to spend more than they did in the past, but it won't allow teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs to go on a spending spree and put Toronto out of the market for top amateur talent.
One of the more unappreciated events from the CBA though has to the banning of smokeless tobacco for new players coming into the MLB.
Heard 1 other interesting CBA detail: new MLB players will be banned from using smokeless tobacco, those already playing grandfathered in— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 1, 2016
This certainly does have some implications on the MLB of tomorrow. Watching the game on TV, it wasn't hard to count the amount of players who had their lips artificially packed with tobacco on any given night. This divorce breaks up a marriage that is as old as the sport itself, only years after Padres' legend Tony Gwynn passed away from oral cancer. It is noted that the rule will only be enforced on new players to the league, meaning that players who were already in the league can continue to pack their lips at their will.
Whether the pressure from new players will make a difference to those currently using the substance remains to be seen. That said, the MLBPA and MLB need to be applauded for setting one more good example for kids growing into the sport in an effort to clean up the game.