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#pounditSunday, January 16, 2022

MLB makes radical proposal to replace salary arbitration

Rob Manfred

Labor negotiations are heating up in Major League Baseball with the threat of a work stoppage looming. It appears that the league is throwing out some radical proposals to address some concerns among players.

There is an eagerness among players to see significant changes to the free agency system, relating to both salary arbitration and how long players must play to hit free agency. MLB, aware of this, offered up a new proposal on Thursday with an interesting twist.

According to Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, MLB’s proposal would make players eligible for free agency at age 29 1/2. More notable is the fact that MLB proposed replacing salary arbitration with a precalculated salary based in part on the wins above replacement stat, or WAR.

MLB proposed using statistics site Fangraphs’ calculation of WAR. Doing so could help some skilled defensive players and pitchers with high strikeout tallies, but could hurt relievers and other pitchers who rely more on weak contact.

Regardless, the proposal is likely to fail. One MLB agent said “Albert Pujols has a better chance of leading the majors in stolen bases” than the players being amenable to the offer. The biggest problem is free agency, which would be pushed back for many players on the basis of an age threshold.

The distance between the two sides is another clear sign of how much work has to be done to avoid a work stoppage. MLB does not seem eager to significantly overhaul the sport’s economics, while many players feel those economics do not work for them. The current CBA expires on Dec. 1, and no deal appears close.

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