Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #7: Baseball gets a new Collective Bargaining Agreement

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

This tweet that has gone viral over the past two days:

I have a lot of answers for that because I’m an old man, but my baseball answer for that would be “there was a time when Major League Baseball and the Players Union used to be adversaries.” It’s true! They’d fight about things and the players would go on strike or the owners would lock the players out or what have you. It kind of sucked, obviously, but it was just a part of the landscape of the game.

The last time there was enough acrimony between the league and the union to even threaten a work stoppage was 2002, when one was avoided at the last minute. The last time there was an actual work stoppage was now over 20 years ago, in the form of the 1994-95 strike. Since then, the expiration of each old Collective Bargaining Agreement has been met with an uneventful negotiation followed by a quick ratification of a new deal, with five more years of uninterrupted baseball ensured.

Such was the case this year. The new deal was reached around the first of December and was ratified later in the month. Among the more notable terms:

  • Home field advantage on the World Series will no longer be determined by the winner of the All-Star Game;
  • A hard cap has been placed on bonuses for international players;
  • The disabled list minimum stay has been reduced from 15 to 10 days;
  • Luxury tax thresholds increased, but not by as much as revenue has been increasing; and
  • Rookie hazing rituals will no longer include dressing players up as women or female characters;

A full summary of all of the terms can be read here.

There was nothing earth shattering in the agreement itself, but there were two aspects to it which could have serious repercussions in the future: (1) the union, for the first time ever, agreed to a hard cap on player compensation, in the form of that hard limit on international player bonuses; and (2) the union agreed to major provisions without securing player consensus, with there being several reports of player dissatisfaction with certain terms.

It’s good that we will have baseball, uninterrupted, for the next five seasons. It’s good that a deal was done. But, as I argued at length earlier this month, it’s possible that reaching that deal cost the union quite a bit in terms of solidarity and principle. The players may not have to pay much if anything for that now, but the next time they negotiate with the owners, they’ll have way weaker of a leg to stand on than they used to have as a result.

Bills always have a way of coming due.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.