MLB prepared to voluntarily recognize minor league union

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
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NEW YORK – Major League Baseball is ready to voluntarily accept the formation of a minor league union, a key step that will lead to collective bargaining and possibly a strike threat at the start of next season.

The Major League Baseball Players Association launched the unionization drive on Aug. 28 and told MLB on Tuesday it had obtained signed authorization cards from the approximately 5,000 to 6,500 players with minor league contracts. If MLB had declined to accept the union, the players’ association’s next step would have been to ask the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an authorization election.

“We, I believe, notified the MLBPA today that we’re prepared to execute an agreement on voluntary recognition. I think they’re working on the lanaguage as we speak,” baseball Commssioner Rob Manfred said during a news conference to announce on-field rules changes for next season.

Major leaguers negotiated their first collective bargaining agreement in 1968. They have had nine work stoppages during a period of gains that saw the big league average salary rise from $19,000 in 1967 to over $4 million this year. Players on 40-man rosters on option to the minor leagues have been represented by the union since 1981.

The vast majority of minor leaguers have not been previously been represented by the union, which intends to form a separate bargaining unit with its own dues and governance structure, such as player representatives and an executive board.

MLB raised weekly minimum salaries for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at rookie and short-season levels, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A. For players on option, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for later big league contracts.

In addition, MLB this year began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor leaguers.

MLB and union negotiators have had an acrimonious relationship in recent years, leading to several grievances that remain pending. Manfred and union head Tony Clark held separate news conferences to announce the agreement that ended the lockout in March, and union officials did not attend MLB’s news conference Friday to announce the adoption of a pitch clock and defensive shift restrictions.

The five-year labor agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2026, and MLB could seek a simultaneous expiration for a minor league deal.

The minor leaguers’ greatest leverage may be ahead of opening day, March 31 at Triple-A and April 6 at lower levels, when a strike could lead each team to keep its dozen or so unionized players on option at training complexes playing makeshift games.

Negotiations between Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem and Bruce Meyer, recently promoted to the union’s executive director, have been filled with acrimony.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.