Expect nothing radical in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement

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As we’ve mentioned often, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have been negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to replace the one which is set to expire on December 1. There has been no suggestion of serious acrimony or the threat of a work stoppage. There have been some random reports of some changes, but it now sounds as if the new boss is going to look a lot like the old boss.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported over the weekend that, apart from the possibility of an international draft, which we’ve talked about at length here, there is unlikely to be anything radical in the new CBA.

Despite some rumblings about possibly shortening the season, the 162-game schedule is likely to hold steady. The 25-man roster is, per Ken Rosenthal’s report the other day, is going to soon become the 26-man roster and September roster expansion will be limited. Competitive balance/cost control measures such as the Luxury Tax will stay in place, though the payroll amount which triggers punitive tax measures will likely increase over its current $189 million.

The international draft is currently the greatest point of contention between the union and the league, but it seems unlikely that it will stand in the way of a deal. The qualifying offer/compensatory draft pick system is reportedly something which the union would like to alter because it depresses the value of certain free agents, but it seems as though there is more likely to be mere tweaks to that system than any sort of fundamental alteration.

It’s understandable why MLB and the MLBPA wish to keep things as close to the same as possible. Labor peace has made for extraordinary increases in revenue and salaries. One might observe, as we have observed on several occasions, that the amount the owners have benefitted over the past decade or so has outstripped the degree to which the players have benefitted and that, as the reason for MLB’s increased revenues, perhaps the players could and should be doing better than they are. One might also observe, however, that the players don’t seem to be too terribly bothered by that. At least bothered enough to put serious pressure on MLB to change the current state of affairs all that much.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”