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MLB will stop awarding prize belt to team that best suppresses salaries in arbitration

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Earlier this year, Marc Carig of The Athletic published a report on a belt, awarded as a prize at the GM meetings every year to the team that did the most to “achieve the goals set by the industry.” That’s code for salary suppression in arbitration.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded to the report, saying, “That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our Players, the game, and the arbitration process itself.”

The prize belt hadn’t been particularly well-known except by agents and various officials involved in the arbitration process. But following Carig’s report, it became emblematic of the labor strife within the sport. That’s why, as Carig now reports, the league will stop awarding the belt, saying it is not in their best interest to keep doing so. In other words: it’s bad PR.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021. Many are worried that there will be a work stoppage, interrupting 25 years of labor peace. Along with arbitration, other sources of tension include free agency, suspicion of collusion, and the qualifying offer system. The odds that all of those issues and more are addressed satisfactorily seems low. The union got squashed during negotiations for the current CBA and won’t want to make that same mistake again. And the league knows better than to poke a hungry bear.

Cubs sign Jeremy Jeffress

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The Chicago Cubs have signed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to a one-year, $850,000 deal.

While Jeffress is coming off a bad year — due mostly to hip and shoulder problems — this is a surprisingly low figure for Jeffress, who was said to have had a “sizable market” last September, with the Mets, Phillies, Reds, and Rays all rumored to be in on him. It’s also worth noting that he is just a year removed from an excellent 1.29 ERA season with the Brewers. He is reported to be eligible for $200,000 in incentives, which could bring this deal closer to what a reliever of his caliber’s going rate might be.

As for the Cubs, they haven’t been particularly active this offseason — indeed, this is their first free agent acquisition — but I suppose we should give them credit for buying low on a guy who should probably be able to help their bullpen.