MLB and Union Agree to Several Changes, Plan to Discuss Labor Issues Ahead of CBA Expiration

According to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, MLB the MLB Players Association have agreed to a number of changes that include a $1 million Home Run Derby bonus and the move to a single trade deadline in 2019. The agreement also includes the implementation of a three-batter minimum — previous reports listed injury or finishing an inning as exemptions — and minimal roster expansions in 2020.

Even more important than any of that, however, is the two sides continuing to work together on more pressing labor issues affecting the game. Players have become more and more outspoken when it comes to free agency and service-time manipulation, to the point that many believe a work stoppage is inevitable following the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

But this last news offers hope that several of these issues can be addressed ahead of time, without the pressure of a deadline that would result in either a strike or a lockout.

Those discussions, sources told ESPN, will center on the game’s most fundamental economic tenets — not only free agency but other macro issues with deep consequences. The bargaining over distribution of revenue could be the most difficult gap to bridge, with teams clearly paring back spending on aging players while players chafe at the notion that those 30 and older are no longer worthy of the deals they received in the past. While a compromise could be reached in distributing more money to the younger players whom the current system underpays, the complications of doing so warrant a long runway for discussions.

The complications are many, so this isn’t a guarantee of a solution by any means. And owners aren’t likely to just hand over a bigger portion of the record $10.3 billion in revenues they pulled down last year, especially when their percentage of that take has grown over each of the last several seasons. But if giving up a little money means a better, healthier product, they’d be wise to think into the future.

So we know for sure that we’ll be seeing a single trade deadline on July 31, a bigger bonus for the Derby, 26-man rosters (moving to 28 in September), and a three-batter minimum coming to MLB over the next two seasons. Not on the table for the immediate future are a 20-second pitch clock, restrictions on defensive shifts or a move to the universal DH, both of which seemed at points to have generated significant momentum.

As for how this will impact the Cubs specifically, well, that’s really a matter of guesswork at this point. You do have to wonder, however, whether the elimination of August trades and the imminent change to the deployment of relievers will have Theo Epstein’s gears turning. The bullpen is a shambles and, while things could work out just fine in the end, you can imagine how adding an elite arm would solidify things.

If only a player like that was out there, someone who had proven himself to be one of the best closers of all time. And imagine if it was late enough in the game that he might be willing to take something less than the $100 million he was seeking. Sources (and for the record, I always feel weird saying that) have told Cubs Insider that the Cubs have indeed run the numbers on Craig Kimbrel, and it’s reasonable to assume they’ve continued to monitor his market.

Speaking to members of the media Wednesday in Mesa, Joe Maddon said the plan was to look at deals — presumably of a more minor nature — and waiver moves to augment the bullpen. That’d be cool if everything was status quo, but the combination of injuries and inconsistent performance from their current pitchers is going to be difficult to patch over with castoffs. And they can’t depend on the inevitable late-season sell-off to provide them with a waiver-wire steal going forward.

Or they can just hope Brandon Morrow’s recovery stays on track and that he remains healthy for the rest of the season once he returns in May. And that Pedro Strop’s hamstrings are healed. Brad Brach throwing harder than the high 90’s would be good, as would Brian Duensing and Brandon Kintzler pitching like it’s 2017.

But never mind all of that, the bigger Home Run Derby bonus may draw the big names backbackbackbackbackbackback to that event. And isn’t that what really matters?


Ed. note: Another bit of info worth noting is that MLB is moving to a 2-minute limit on commercial breaks, which should improve things for fans at home and at the game. Might mean more picture-in-picture ads at times, but better than stretching the game out unnaturally.


Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and co-founder of Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana's foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan's greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson's Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College.

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  1. Evan, baseball is little more than bread and circuses. The derby was supposed to be a fun event; now players are going to figure out who can best pitch to them.
    Gambling is a pandor’as box waiting to explode and make 1919 seem amateurish by comparison.
    And the team RSNs are going to be little more than around the clock info-mercials.
    and, need I say that “know-it-all” kids in the mid to late 20s believe that they’re more important than the game and the fans;
    and owners too have forgotten what the game is supposed to be about:
    a guy throws the ball, someone tries to swing and perhaps hit it if it’s in or close to the strike zone, and, if hit, players play defense.
    Single hitters used to be as valuable as guys who strike out 250 times a season who also happen to be HR strikers.
    And, we, as fans pretend that their guys really care about winning anything except for increased paychecks be it from the owners or the fans through the sale of products and autographs.
    And we are supposed to believe that a guy like KB from Vegas or Javy from Soth Florida truly care who they play for.
    It’s a business — nothing more — and we are the collective suckers tying our emotions into something more than those in the biz do.

    The game has lost its way much as the rest of our society and culture have.

    Free agency was the first leak in the dam which, 50 or so years later, has now escalated into a 500 year flood.

    I truly doubt that many under the age of 40 can appreciate what attracted guys like me to enjoy the game as it was in the 1960s when I was growing up.
    Stats were simple and understandable by a 10 year old wwho figured out how to compute batting averages and an ERA on a slide rule.
    And pitchers weren’t blowing out their arms and batters who knew how to swing so as to minimize stays on the DL list.

    The nature of baseball has changed, and not for the better.


  2. If Kimbrel is willing to take a reasonable deal they have to sign him. There is a fit, BP are going to be even more difficult to build going forward needing guys who can get hitters from both sides out, and the Cubs are going to be the tax and will be hit far harder if they sign FA with compensation tied to them next year.

  3. But there, Jack, folks who get into the derby.
    I’m not one of them; nor can I get excited about the allstar game either.
    The voting part, for the starters, is a glorified popularity contest with few voters basing choices on merit.
    It’s part of the bread and circuses surrounding the entertainment vehicle known as MLB baseball.
    Not a sport any more.

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