Narrow bridges

Today is another CBA trading ‘deadline’, but there are bridges to sell

Throughout this lockdown — well, especially the last month or so — I’ve thought a lot about my responsibility to be a filter for the reader. I’m not saying it’s a big mission or anything like that, but I want to make sure I’m not sharing information without providing enough context so you all know where I think things stand* REALLY * in negotiations. If you’re anything like me, there have been too many fits and starts, hopes and punches to feel like a “deadline” is meaningful at this point.

Today is another “deadline”. But my caveat at the top is here to remind you – and myself – that nothing that follows suggests to me that I expect the deadline to be question. It’s still the most likely outcome for several more Chicken Games to come, and it could become a weekly thing: Deadline Tuesday, another games week canceled Wednesday. Any individual Tuesday where you believe ‘THIS IS THE DAY!’ is the same Tuesday that someone successfully sells you a bridge.

But, of course, it’s up to me to share the information as we have it and share my thoughts. So here’s the latest.

If there’s no deal by tonight, MLB says it will cancel another week of games. And that’s a carrot deadline, since MLB reportedly offered to catch up on the already games canceled if a deal is reached by tonight – in fact, MLB is telling players that if they reach a deal today, they’ll get full 162-game pay (carrot); if there is no agreement, they will lose at least two weeks of salary (stick). That’s about 7.5% of the season, or a loss of $300 million for the players. (Lost pay and/or time on duty would be a fight down the road, but that’s the implicit threat in MLB today..)

What MLB is doing is betting players could, today, decide that making sure they get that $300 million (plus any other potential future losses) is more than they could make up for. in the ABC if they last a few more weeks or months. Based on the math, the owners are probably right on this point (although they’re also likely to start losing quite significantly when they have to start paying back the streaming money at the end of April). In other words, the owners – who have already made players drop all major demands – are still in the mode they seem to have been in since November: either they get another massive CBA win, or they happily lose the April games. Nothing has changed on that side. Now it’s just more specific and tangible, as the offers from each side have shrunk, and we know a specific week or two of games are on the table today.

I don’t like any of that. I don’t like the way this negotiation has gone, and I don’t like the idea that the players are now between a rock and a hard place. Above all, I don’t like the way I find myself hoping for a deal to be done today, no matter what the cost. I’m a fan after all, and I just want baseball. Like an idiot, I keep hoping that the owners will finally make a deal that I could responsibly call “fair,” but we haven’t seen anything come close yet.

It’s just another reminder of how this whole situation sucks. I don’t even know if a entirely a “good” result is possible today. We’ll see what happens and assess from there.

But again: the information we have since November suggests that a deal today is highly unlikely, deadline or not.

Jeff Passan has a good description of the current situation, where there could be cautious optimism, but he also indicates that the existing gaps are still too wide to think that a deal today is likely. It turns out that a lot of big proposal exchanges took place yesterday in secret, which is probably a good sign, but the only thing we know is that the owners offered to move to the first level of the first year of the $220 million luxury tax. at $228 million (players were at $238 million) and last year’s first tier at $238 million (players were at $263 million). This movement alone does not necessarily seem massive (especially given Evan Drellich’s Caution that it came with “major strings” attached). It’s a good bump. Arguably the first good bump we’ve seen from owners on the luxury tax, and puts their numbers roughly within the range people were projecting when the lockdown started. But the increase to $238 million over the five years of the deal is damn modest, and it’s still unclear what the higher tiers or penalties look like in this latest deal.

Stay tuned for today’s negotiations, but (1) keep your fingers crossed that there are NO constant leaks, and (2) remember that a deal may be something. something like a 10% proposal.