How are the Toronto Blue Jays impacted by the few public details of the asking package Major League Baseball presented to the players?
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43 days in to the MLB’s lockout of the MLBPA, there is finally something of significance to discuss. MLB made an offer which includes a core economics proposal. Not surprisingly it has already been rejected by the players association.
So what is the point of analyzing it if the proposal has already been rejected by the MLBPA? Well for one thing it gives people who write about baseball something to talk about. More importantly, there is the possibility that some aspects of the initial offer will end up in the CBA, whenever we see a new CBA.
It’s worth looking at their likely impact on the Blue Jays.
Under the expired CBA, the draft order has been the reverse of the previous season’s standings. Critics of this format argue that it incentivizes “tanking”.
MLB’s offer, reportedly included a draft lottery for the bottom three teams whereas the players had previously asked for a draft lottery for the bottom eight.
With a winning percentage of .562, the Jays had the best record among non-playoff teams in 2021. Even if this is implemented right away, whether it’s bottom three, eight, or anywhere in between, the Jays will not be affected. If this doesn’t take effect until next year, then (hopefully) it won’t affect them much if at all. They Jays are hoping to be early in a long competitive window and hopefully will be in the playoffs much more often than not.
Now if only there were some way to make certain that a championship team can never draft ahead of a non-playoff team…..but I digress.
Since the Jays play in the American League which already employs the DH, this change likely wouldn’t have much impact on them if at all. The only small impact I could envision would be playing in an NL park. Currently, at least in theory, AL teams have a small disadvantage playing in NL parks since NL pitchers are used to having to hit. Most NL pitchers still aren’t great hitters or anything but they tend to be better as a group than AL pitchers.
Here are some stats for the last four seasons that there was a DH used in the AL but not the NL (2020 is omitted because they used the universal DH in the 2020 Covid shortened season):
2021: 309 plate appearances, wOBA .113, wRC+ -28
2019: 323 plate appearances, wOBA .107, wRC+ -32
2018: 330 plate appearances, wOBA .111, wRC+ -32
2017: 357 plate appearances, wOBA .134, wRC+ -17
2021: 4479 plate appearances, wOBA .133, wRC+ -22
2019: 4850 plate appearances, wOBA .146, wRC+ -17
2018: 4805 plate appearances, wOBA .134, wRC+ -24
2017, 4920 plate appearances, wOBA .145, wRC+ -20
While neither league’s pitching produced well at the plate, National League pitchers consistently outperformed their American League counterparts. A universal DH would result in a slight advantage for the Blue Jays (and all other American League teams) when they play NL teams.
Elimination of draft pick compensation
The answer to this depends largely on when this would take effect. If immediately, this would hurt the Jays who currently stand to receive two comp picks after losing Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien to free agency. If it doesn’t take place until next off season, then the effect would be TBD. It would depend on how many quality players the Jays lose to free agency.
Increase in the CBT threshold
MLB offered an increase from the current threshold of $210 million to $214 million. The player’s union has reportedly asked for an increase to $245 million. Clearly they are quite far apart on this issue.
A $4 million increase in allowable team payroll probably wouldn’t have much of an effect. Assuming they can find a middle ground, this potentially could help the Jays a lot.
Before the lockout, the Jays already spent $252 million on an extension for Jose Berrios and signing free agents Kevin Gausman and Yimi Garcia. They still have other needs and an increase to the CBT threshold would allow them to add more payroll and still have room left to (hopefully) extend Vladimir Guerrero Jr.and Bo Bichette to long term contracts in the future without going over the limit.
On the other hand, there are teams whose payrolls are at or near the previous CBT threshold of $210 million. They might have been reluctant to acquire any players if it would mean adding salary to their payroll. With the higher CBT limit, the Jays could have more competition for players they would like to add, either via trade or free agency.
I believe the Jays would make this work in their favour.
Higher minimum salary
The minimum salary in 2021 was $570,500. The players reportedly asked for a $775,000 minimum. MLB offered a tiered system of $600,000 for players with less than a year of service, $650,000 for players with 1 + years and $700,000 for players with 2 + years.
Without knowing where the compromise will ultimately fall, let’s go on the high end and assume MLB owners will pay all pre-arbitration players an extra $200,000 per season.
The Jays have a number of players on the 40 man roster who fall in to this category. Bo Bichette, Santiago Espinal, Alejandro Kirk, Alek Manoah Reese McGuire, Julian Merryweather, Jordan Romano and Nate Pearson would all see significant raises under this proposal, as would Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and any other pre-arbitraion players for as long as they occupy a major league roster. Let’s say it costs them an extra $2 million in team payroll. They should easily be able to cover that.
MLB has proposed expanding playoffs to 14 teams from the current 10. This would not hurt the Jays and could potentially help them, since it would give them more opportunity to get to the playoffs, as they did with expanded playoffs in 2020. Although I don’t expect them to need those extra spots, it doesn’t help.
If only they had had expanded playoffs in 2021! Sigh.
Now the ball is in the MLBPA’s court. The baseball world, including fans, await their counter offer.