MLB Season Preview: Money Talks Dominate the Offseason

Money can’t buy championships, but it can help.

Eight of the last 12 World Series winners have a payroll in the top 10 in Major League Baseball in the season in which they won. The exceptions: the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, the 2015 Kansas City Royals, have since marred the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2021 Atlanta Braves. Of the winners, the Royals were the only ones considered a small market club.

So when the 2022 MLB campaign begins on Thursday – a 99 -day lockout ended in time to preserve a 162 -game season – expectations will be highest for the teams with the highest payroll rankings. They’re a mix of the usual suspects (the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees) and a newcomer (the Mets) – all from the big markets. They are the teams that are, in many ways, at the center of a controversy that has ended nearly three decades of peace working on the game.

The resurgence of the once-saving Mets has added new dynamics to the baseball hierarchy in New York and throughout MLB Thanks to the willingness of second-year Mets owner, Steven A. Cohen, to spend money , a new luxury tax threshold. negotiating a new labor agreement in the sport with 30 MLB club owners named after him. Meanwhile, the owner of the ever-fighting Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner, is confused by the idea that he should keep Cohen.

“I can’t control what resources other owners or other teams have, and what they do with those resources,” Steinbrenner said last month. “I make the same commitment every year, my family does, which is to do everything we can to put a team of championship caliber and try to win a World Series.”

But the Yankees haven’t won a World Series, or even shown one, since 2009. The Mets ’last title came in 1986, but their most recent trip was in 2015. The Dodgers have shown three in the past. five, winning by 2020.

Those three clubs, all planned to pay luxury taxes this season, are leading MLB’s expected salary rankings toward opening day. According to FanGraphs payroll calculations for luxury tax purposes, the Dodgers ($ 293 million) lead the pack, followed by the Mets ($ 287 million) and the Yankees ($ 262 million).

“It’s great for New York fans to have two competitive baseball teams,” Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner was one of seven owners of MLB’s labor committee that negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with the players ’union. For months, the sides have been fighting over the economic foundation of the game. A major cause of tension: MLB is the only one of the top men’s professional sports leagues in North America without a tough salary cap. In the NFL and the NBA, revenue is shared between team owners and players at a fixed rate.

But in MLB, where the salary of the players is public but the income of the owners is not, teams can spend as much as they want. They can also spend as much as they want – as long as they are willing to pay tax penalties on the balance of the competition, which is seen as a soft cover for some teams and a hard one for others. The union successfully negotiated the largest luxury tax threshold jump from one labor agreement to the next, with the initial threshold from $ 210 million in 2021 to $ 230 million in 2022. To get that, however, players agreed. at a new, fourth threshold of $ 60 million above base.

That’s not a problem for Cohen.

“Listen, $ 290 million is a lot of money to spend overall and I’m OK with it,” he said last month. “I don’t feel like it’s so limited that I can’t live with it.”

Even before the pandemic affected sporting revenue, players expressed complaints about how teams were behaving. Despite record-breaking contracts in recent years, overall spending has declined.

In 2021, $ 4.05 billion spent on payroll is the lowest in a fully completed year since 2015, according to calculations by The Associated Press. Only two teams – the San Diego Padres and the Dodgers – pay the luxury tax. Nine teams spent $ 92 million or less in payroll. MLB’s median salary is $ 1.15 million, up from a record high of $ 1.65 million in 2015. And the average career length is about four years, with salary arbitration, providing significant increases, on average. does not start until a player has accumulated three years of service time.

Those numbers, however, are expected to rise in the current deal as the sides agree to raise the league-minimum rate, which most players make, from $ 570,500 in 2021 to $ 700,000 in 2022. There is also $ 50 million bonus pool for top young players who have not yet qualified for arbitration. This off-season, owners spent more than $ 3 billion on new players ’salaries, breaking the previous winter record, set for 2016.

“MLBPA has historically wanted a market-based system,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred, referring to the players ’union, on the night the new deal was made last month. “In a lot of negotiations that has been their main focus. Markets are producing market results. And I think the changes made in this agreement have shifted their direction on topics like the CBT threshold.

During the labor negotiations, the owners – who ran an estimated $ 11 billion – in a year’s business before the pandemic – argued for ways to reduce high spending and improve talent sharing. or money in clubs. The players, a more diverse group whose members are not all millionaires, want a more free market, improved competition among clubs (and thus more spending) and economies that are slowly being led by leading clubs.

“The teams with the biggest spending in the market mean the system is working well. That hasn’t been the case here in a long time,” said Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, a member of a union high committee. said in Spanish.

He continued, pointing out that the Bronx team spent quite a few years to reset the luxury tax penalty status: “The Yankees also stopped spending a certain amount of time, too. And that’s it. means the system is not working the way it should.We hope that in this new CBA there will be new teams to spend and especially those in the big markets.

New teams opened their checkbooks this winter. After keeping their salaries low in recent years, the Texas Rangers have made more than half a billion dollars in commitments. They awarded a 10 -year, $ 325 million contract to shortstop Corey Seager and a seven -year, $ 175 million contract to second baseman Marcus Semien. The Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies have joined the Dodgers and Mets in guaranteeing more than $ 200 million in new contracts this winter.

“It’s important to the industry as a whole – and I’ve said it before so it’s not new – no fan should have to come to spring training thinking their team has no chance of winning. in a division, there’s no chance of getting into the playoffs, ”Steinbrenner said. “That could just be bad for the industry as a whole. That’s why I support the balance of competition and steps to try to address that even with this agreement.

But some clubs don’t appear to be ready to compete for the playoffs, which have expanded to 12 teams out of 10. Others – either those in the big markets (Oakland Athletics) or those that receive revenue sharing from others (the Pittsburgh Pirates)-rebuilding and lowering players and salaries. The growing gap between the lowest and highest cost teams worries people like Lindor.

To the point: Lindor’s teammate Max Scherzer, who will earn $ 43.3 million this season after signing with the Mets, is expected to earn more than the overall estimated opening day payrolls of the following teams, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts: the Baltimore Orioles, the Athletics and the Pirates. The Cleveland Guardians are not far from Scherzer, who has an expected salary of $ 52 million. Lindor picked them all and compared them to the Mets ’payroll.

“That’s a $ 200 million difference, and you haven’t seen that before,” said Lindor, who sold Cleveland to the Mets before last season and then signed a 10 -year, $ 341 million extension to stay. He added: “If the teams win, they get money. They say they can’t make a profit, but they get good money. The industry keeps growing.”

At one point in the labor talks, MLB offered a tough $ 100 million salary floor – which could be a first for the sport – in addition to a lower luxury tax threshold of $ 180 million. , which includes a higher pass rate. Some players are open to the idea of ​​setting a minimum for team payrolls but are uncomfortable with the accompanying, heavier cap.

Despite a draft lottery, which was created to help prevent teams from losing for the purpose of hoping to get the No. 1 spot. a game that will suffer from severe unequal spending on player qualities. He coached the small teams in the NFL market that battled in the playoffs.

“Groups that want to eat will keep the bread,” he continued. “And it has a drag on the overall economy of the sport. I think financially, the management can survive it. And they also have enough freedom to let the Dodgers and the Yankees and anyone else who wants to come out and compete. really in the free agency market to do this and pay the tax.So I think it’s more the same with a higher threshold.And I also think the money will spread even to the players in the middle by opening in that cap, to have a small number of players under a million dollars.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.