It’s hard to glean much from a single item in one offer of a complex bargaining, let alone long before an agreement is reached. But one detail of Thursday’s offer from the MLB players association stood out, with respect to salary arbitration.
In previous talks, the union wanted to have players eligible for arbitration after two years instead of three, which was how the arbitration system functioned in its first 13 years of existence, through 1986. But in Thursday’s offer, the MLBPA tweaked that stance. From Jesse Rogers at ESPN:
In its new proposal, the union asked for 80% of players with two years of service time to enter the arbitration system, down from a previous request of 100%. Currently, 22% of second-year players — known as Super 2s — enter arbitration.
The last collective bargaining agreement called for arbitration after three years of major league service, and for players with two years but not yet three years, the top 22 percent in service time would also be eligible for a fourth year of arbitration instead of three.
Last offseason, there were 21 players who qualified for Super Two status, including Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, who avoided an arbitration hearing with a two-year, $8 million contract, plus $3 million in bonuses he already earned.
This offseason, the cutoff for Super Two status was two years, 116 days of service time. That was for the top 22 percent of players in between two and three years of service. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors tried to figure out what a top 80-percent group would look like.
Appears MLBPA's proposal to make 80% of 2+ players eligible for arbitration would be like moving the Super Two cutoff from its current 2.116 to 2.028. By my count this winter that'd mean 79 additional players in the arb system.— timdierkes (@timdierkes) February 17, 2022
Similarly, per Ronald Blum at the Associated Press, “MLB estimates the union plan would make 97 additional players eligible for arbitration this year.”
Using Dierkes’ cutoff, a quartet of Dodgers could be eligible for salary arbitration in 2022 if the players’ offer is accepted as is:
- Matt Beaty: two years, 115 days of service time
- Will Smith: two years, 90 days
- Dustin May: two years, 59 days
- Edwin Ríos: two years, 43 days
It’s important to note that the union’s offer almost certainly won’t be accepted as is. There will be more back and forth until an agreement is reached, on a number of issues.
The players backing off their stance of arbitration for everyone after two years is movement, just as their dropping of seeking free agency after five years instead of six. There probably won’t be a Super Two group made up of the top 80 percent, but even a slight movement by the owners would mean salary arbitration for something more than the top 22 percent of this group.
Any movement would likely be good news for Matt Beaty, who fell only one day short of Super Two status under the old system. If things stay status quo in this regard, Beaty will likely make something close to the major league minimum in 2022, just like he did last year, earning $590,500 in a league with a minimum salary of $570,500.
The union is asking for $775,000 as a minimum salary, while owners have offers of either $630,000 with possibility of raises, or a tiered system that would pay two-year players a flat $725,000.
Through salary arbitration, Beaty would likely make somewhere north of $1 million. Here’s a comp from last year’s Super Two group:
A pair of NL West hitters
|Austin Slater||2021||648||20||6||14||.258/.3446/.388||100||$1.15 million|
Again, we don’t yet know how the new CBA will be different than the old agreement. But if there’s any change that gives Beaty the one-day nudge he needs for Super Two status, we would have a real world example of how such a system could affect players.