MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark chatted with the media today as part of this week’s All-Star festivities. The Twitter feeds of Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Group feature many of the key comments. Those interested in reading more about the labor situation should also read this interesting look at the efforts of Clark and other union leaders from Tyler Kepner and James Wagner of the New York Times.
Clark emphasized just now notable it was that the union and league have launched negotiations now, well in advance of the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. He didn’t shy away from a lofty goal, stating: “We are interested in restoring meaningful free agency.”
The MLBPA is chasing other goals as well, including putting a stop to service time manipulation, increasing the marketing of players, and boosting compensation for young players that haven’t yet reached arbitration eligibility. On that last score, Clark says that “a young player needs to be fairly compensated for what he’s doing.”
As ever, the question remains just what alternatives can be proposed to create the desired outcomes. In part, MLB teams’ collective shift away from free agent spending is a reflection of the volume of young talent now rising to the majors. That speaks in favor of boosting pre-arb spending, but the capital side of the equation surely won’t boost the compensation of such players unless there are corresponding savings elsewhere.
Clark notes that the $555K league minimum is only that. “You can pay players more,” he says. “Teams are choosing not to.” But it isn’t clear why organizations would come forward with across-the-board raises for young players when there’s nothing compelling it. And it’s also fair at least to note that some teams have gone well over the minimum, especially for star players. That they have done so on an essentially ad hoc basis reflects the simple fact that the current CBA does not require more.