With playoffs over, CBA talks now move to the forefront

Now that the baseball season is over, the baseball labor talks are on the clock. The sides are pursuing a new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1. That date is coming fast.

The players and owners have been talking on and off behind the scenes since around the All-Star break, or so they tell us. This is great. Keep it out of the media, out of Twitter, out of social media and headlines altogether.

We simply cannot have a repeat of the back and forth in the media that led into the shortened 2020 season. That was terrible for baseball. As the country and the sport’s fans dealt with a pandemic, these sides argued over how to divvy up millions and millions of dollars. It was a bad look for the sport. Very bad.

From where I sit, without taking sides or owning any inside info, or anyone trying to spin the situation and sell me on it, I see a healthy sport with a big pile of money. So players and owners, please figure how to split it up without a work stoppage.

It is possible that when the current CBA expires in a few weeks that there is a lockout and a freeze on rosters. No moves, no signings, no trades. No guarantee either that this does happen, but it’s possible. The upcoming Winter Meetings could be canceled. Even without a lockout, freeze on player moves, teams and players alike could be reluctant to make too many moves or signings, not knowing the full labor and roster rules under which they will be playing moving forward.

All the sudden, after all the fun of the playoffs, the uncertain future now takes center stage.

The players and owners need to find a way to get more salary to players earlier in their careers. Currently, most players cannot be eligible for salary arbitration until after three full seasons. Ryan Mountcastle has been one of the most productive Orioles in 2020-21 and he is a Rookie of the Year candidate. But under the current system, he is not likely to become arbitration-eligible until after the 2023 season. He could play for a salary near the major league minimum for two more years. Good for the team, not for the player, said Captain Obvious.

At the same time, the game is clearly trying to get away from issuing long-term deals for aging veterans where they are owed millions long after their best days.

Thumbnail image for Mancini-Swings-Black-Sidebar.jpgOne proposal was reportedly to have all players become free agents at 29.5 years of age. This proposal doesn’t work for me. Under that system, O’s right-hander Cole Sulser would have been a free agent after the 2019 year with just 7 1/3 major league innings under his belt. Trey Mancini would be a free agent now, one year sooner than under the current system. A player like the Nationals’ Juan Soto, who made his debut at 19, would have to play 11 seasons to become a free agent. This proposal needs serious tweaking, and I’m sure it is just a starting point for negotiations and may not factor into the final result.

But there is a lot for the players and owners to discuss.

They need to get cracking quickly with the clock ticking now on these talks.

The sides were able to negotiate new agreements in 2002, 2006, 2011, and 2016 ahead of specific deadlines. Major League Baseball needs to do that again.

Check out this tweet: The Orioles and Mountcastle did a nice thing for one little boy.

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