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MLB lockdown: Owners of Angels, D-Backs, Reds and Tigers voted against league’s latest CBA proposal, report says

MLB lockdown: Owners of Angels, D-Backs, Reds and Tigers voted against league's latest CBA proposal, report says

Four franchise owners voted against Major League Baseball’s latest proposal submitted to the MLB Players Association on Tuesday, according to Andy Martino of SNY. Athletic’s Evan Drellich identifies four owners: Bob Castellini (Reds), Chris Ilitch (Tigers), Ken Kendrick (Diamondbacks) and Arte Moreno (Angels).

When the union unanimously rejected the league’s proposal, commissioner Rob Manfred ended a pre-existing threat by canceling the first two series of the season, ensuring the owner-imposed lockdown would extend into a third. month.

According to Martino’s sources, even more owners would have joined the “no” side if the league’s proposal offered a competitive balance tax threshold above $220 million. As Martino and Drellich note, this could prove to be a problem in the future, given that it only takes eight “no” votes to derail the ratification of a new CBA.

Drellich also notes that MLB attempted to include standard expenses such as meal money per day in the CBT payroll calculation, which would artificially lower the threshold since less money could be spent on player salaries. It didn’t sit well with the MLBPA. From Drellich:

One of the league’s efforts that angered players was a proposal to factor meal money and allowances players receive into luxury tax calculations. In other words, MLB wanted to count the amount of money players get for food against the amount of money teams can spend before being taxed.

The luxury tax already includes some costs related to player benefits – it’s not just a strict accounting of player salaries. But players were angry sources said the league would try to add something as basic as the cost of food as a reason to spend less on payroll. MLB has also attempted to include allowances paid to players who participate in the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby and other special events, sources said.

Earlier this week, Blue Jays pitcher Ross Stripling said MLB tried to sneak in the fine print of his latest proposal. “They did exactly what we thought they would do. They pushed us to a deadline that they imposed and then they tried to push us through some bullshit on that deadline and we were ready for that,” said said Stripling.

Of the four teams whose owners voted against MLB’s latest proposal, only the Angels came close to the CBT’s $210 million threshold in 2021. They finished the season with a $199.0 million payroll dollars for CBT purposes. Anaheim regularly hands out big contracts, though Moreno’s reluctance to cross the CBT threshold cripples the front office as he builds the rest of the roster. The Angels have made the playoffs once in Mike Trout’s 10 full seasons.

Ilitch took over from his late father, Mike, in May 2017. Since then, Detroit has embarked on a rebuild that has seen the team slash payroll from $199.8 million in 2017 to $80.9 million in 2021. The Tigers signed Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez to long-term deals before the lockout, though their projected 2022 salary bill of $133.4 million is still well below the salary bill the team was leading when Mike was the controlling person (average of $190.6 million for TCC purposes from 2013-17).

“Well, I’m supposed to be a good boy and not go over (the TCC threshold), but again, if I have to have certain players who can help us a lot, I’ll go over it,” Mike Ilitch, who died in February 2017, told ESPN in November 2015. “Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Drellich cites “three people briefed on an owner-wide call held this week” to identify the four owners who voted against MLB’s latest proposal, and the motivations behind the leaks are unclear. Are others in the owner ranks trying to pressure these four people into supporting a proposal with a higher CBT threshold? Is this an attempt to embarrass commissioner Rob Manfred, who has clearly failed to unite ownership thus far and is not universally loved even within MLB walls?

CBT has become a hot topic in the negotiations for reasons CBS Sports has explained elsewhere. The short version is that CBT was originally introduced as a luxury tax, but owners have since turned it into a salary cap. Although there is no evidence that either improves parity, both have been shown to be effective wage suppression tools. Few teams have shown a willingness to exceed CBT, and even fewer have dared to cross the threshold on a regular basis. By any honest analysis, hardliners are treating dissident spending as an existential threat when it is not.

“We see the competitive balance tax as a decoupled spending mechanism. That’s how this thing was originally negotiated, and we don’t see this function as a decoupled expense. We see it acting as a salary cap,” said MLBPA, a member of the sub-executive committee. Max Scherzer said earlier this week. “There’s no better way to show that – point-blank, plain and simple – than the San Diego Padres having a higher payroll than the New York Yankees.”

The league’s proposal would have set the lowest tax threshold at $220 million, then raised it to $230 million by the end of the CBA in five years. The union, on the other hand, has proposed to set it at $238 million and possibly to exceed it at $263 million.

If, as Martino reported, four owners were against increasing the CBT to more than $220 million, the league might struggle to get enough votes to pass a new CBA if they got together in the middle. and agreed to peg next year’s figure at around $230. million.

Of course, that’s a problem for Manfred, the league and other owners to figure out – not the players. A new CBA could include an expanded postseason and the introduction of helmet and uniform ads, a combination that could generate more than $200 million in additional revenue. The league could then create an even bigger windfall by striking deals in the areas of streaming and broadcasting.

In other words, there’s a lot of money to be made in a new CBA — provided, that is, Manfred and the rest of the owners can convince more than four parties that they’re seeing ghosts.