While attempting to work on this Cubs off day after having recorded our frustrations but shrug emojis on the latest Dreamcast, I also noted that the current MLB-MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement has been released, so I’m trying to go through it. For the most part the language is pretty straightforward which sometimes isn’t the case with legalese, but my biggest note was the lack of double spacing and the huge margins as if agents and lawyers and maybe even player reps would take notes in the margins or something. Here is the link that I have –> Hope they don’t change the URL but that’s a hell of a file name. JJ Cooper of Baseball America also did a read through so I’m going to just look for some stuff he either didn’t write about or may have missed:
The first 20 pages or so are pretty standard with legal-ish documents (after the long table of contents which does help a bit for those who wish to skim), I think, establishing who the parties are and the length of the season as well as the postseason format, which hasn’t changed from last time. One thing that popped up on page 4 (PDF page 18) is this:
If during the term of this Agreement the format of the Wild Card Series, the Division Series, the League Championship Series or the World Series is proposed to be changed, the Clubs shall give the Association notice thereof and shall negotiate the proposed change with the Association; provided, however, that if during the term of this Agreement the Division Series is proposed to be changed to the best of seven games, the Clubs shall give the Association notice thereof and shall negotiate with the Association but the Clubs shall not be required to negotiate with the Association over contributions to the Players’ pool beyond those specified in Article X.Source: CBA doc
The emphasis in bold is mine, because it seems to me that they’re leaving open the possibility of expanding the Division Series, either for more postseason money or to improve the chance that the top seed doesn’t get upset as much, or both, but that did catch my eye for sure! Just past the page break, there was also a stipulation about negotiating shortening the regular season, so it seems to be a kind of “cover your ass” language in case something changes with either the regular season or the postseason. There’s also a weird stipulation on page 6 that says the Red Sox and Cubs can schedule split doubleheaders in their respective home parks to make up postponed games, which I thought was just a thing that was done and not something that had to be spelled out, but there ya go. The language on Page 9 suggests that they can pre-schedule doubleheaders if they want to, but who really does that anymore?
The salary stuff is covered in Article VI which starts on page 11, and now I at least know what guys make on those infamous “minor league deals with a spring invite” that riles up the fans every offseason. Seeing all the Article headings now makes me understand where Arizona Phil gets his knowledge from, but Phil is obviously still the expert. Kind of cool that they pay the player if said player has to serve in the Armed Forces Reserves during the season for whatever reason, that’s on page 17. Kind of nifty too to see the formalized process of salary arbitration during the hearing on page 19. And it appears both the team and the player have to pay for the arbitration costs, which suggests another incentive to just settle before the hearing where the team tells the player how much he sucks.
They start delineating all the perks of travel and expenses, that you can also see some of in this Trevor May video, on page 22. It’s nice that if the team cuts the player, they still have to pay for the player to fly home first class. JJ also did the breakdown on the Baseball America article, but the meal and tip allowance section starts on page 25 and it’s rather generous. I’m unsure if the minor league player contract will have different stipulations, but the spring training allowances section starting on page 27 suggest they’ll get quite a bit of change for each week, and I was thinking to myself how lavishly I can live on a nice $369.50 a week just on food. It’s nice too that they decided to at least defray some of the costs of renting a hotel or Airbnb, even if it’s just $40 a day if they don’t live in the team camp like they showed in Major League. Similar allowances are listed for minor league rehab assignments.
There’s also a bit about moving expenses starting on page 34, and the legalese is pretty clear on not paying the expenses to the player if they’re literally moving from the White Sox to the Cubs (there are mileage rules about that listed in section B which made my head spin a bit).
There’s a huge section on the postseason players’ pool starting on page 38 that outlines how the pool is created, a lot of which has to do with attendance for the postseason games. It makes sense the players who advance farther would get more dough from the pool per section B:
- World Series winner — 36%
- World Series loser — 24%
- LCS losers — 24% split between the two losers
- LDS losers — 13% split between the four losers (whether they’re Mormon is irrelevant)
- Wild Card losers — 3% split between the four losers (you weren’t supposed to be in the postseason anyway but money talks)
And then of course the players get to vote on who gets the shares, from obviously the players themselves to their favorite bat boy. Section D says the pool needs to be at least $4,608,000 for the World Series winner and $3,072,000 for the World Series loser, with other minimums for the other losers, so they set a floor in case attendance sucks for whatever reason.
The grievance procedure starts at the end of page 40 and is long and boring but that’s where it is if you want to see it. Disciplinary action starts on page 51, and section B thereof has the generic “conduct detrimental to baseball” clause which is intentionally vague.
There’s a part about the injured list and in section D starting on page 57 they actually outline the policies surrounding asking for a second opinion, where the player has to use a pre-approved doctor or else they pay for it themselves unless the team feels generous. They’ve thought of everything! Also, section J on page 63 talks about mental health resources, which are getting more air time these days as a couple players have already hit the IL for mental health reasons, which used to be taboo but we’re understanding the value of good mental health in our modern enlightened society, tongue squarely in cheek.
There is an entire article marked “Miscellaneous” on page 67, which includes some of these fun things:
- no discrimination – I think this is standard for any employment agreement unless you happen to live in a hate-filled red state
- free parking!
- can’t make you play in the Winter Leagues, but some Cubs probably should
- Roster limits – the max before September is 26, but the team must always have 25! Didn’t know that
- Foreign language accommodations – includes print material, ESL classes, and interpreters
- expansion and contraction – Up until this thing expires in 2026, MLB can add two more clubs and that’s it, but they agree not to reduce the number of clubs unless Bob Nutting declares bankruptcy
- special series within US and Canada – like the Little League Classic, the Field of Dreams, and so forth, as well as bonuses for the players for participating
The big one in section D on page 68 is how players who are not yet eligible for arbitration can get a bit of extra cash through the new pre-arbitration performance bonus pool, which splits a $50MM pot paid for by the Commissioner’s office. There is an award structure based on their placement in the voting for Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, and spots on the All-MLB team, which probably creates some weird conflict of interest in regards to the voters but I guess that doesn’t matter since it’s been ratified. Then there’s the joint WAR calculation on page 69 (nice) which I think averages what’s on FanGraphs and something else, totally forgot, but with how WAR continues to be imperfect it probably isn’t the best idea, but again it’s been ratified so shrug emoji.
Rules changes start on page 91 under Article XVIII, and the way they compose the committees, it’s not like they ever have to actually listen to what the players have to say, which is why we have the rules we have now and will likely see a robot ump and a pretacky ball next year.
Article XIX covers player assignments, including options and DFAs, while Article XX is the reserve clause that includes free agency. This includes all the stuff about qualifying offers, which stuck around since nobody could agree on the international draft structure. I think I’ll still follow whatever Arizona Phil has to say, but at least now I know where he got stuff from, as most of this is similar to years past with a few numbers changed. Article XX has a section C on page 110 that just says “Reserved” and I have no idea if that’s good or bad or is like when CNN posts an “Insert Chyron Here” on their graphic.
Article XXIII starts on page 115 and is basically outlining the luxury tax and how the luxury tax payroll is defined. This includes all the tax thresholds and the calculations of tax amount we sort of learned already, but now it is codified and all the legalese is summarized in a table on page 120. Section D starting on page 128 outlines the base benefits for players, which includes workers’ compensation, unemployment, allowances, contributions to player pools, college scholarships, and of course their most likely super expensive medical plan.
Article XXIV starts on page 145 and covers revenue sharing, with rules for how to determine status and where funds go and stuff like that. Based on my limited knowledge of lawyerese, it may be better to just let someone smarter talk you through this part. Probably a bunch of stuff in here about how the Cardinals get random extra draft picks though.
Article XXV covers international play outside the US and Canada, or exhibitions against foreign clubs in-country. There’s a funny bit in section B about how if they awarded an expansion franchise to London or something, that’s no longer considered international play. The participating players and clubs will get some extra cash.
Article XXVI is a simple sentence that says this current agreement expires on December 1, 2026, before midnight Eastern time, which means they’d better have something in place for December 2. After that, it’s the signature pages (e-signed, I guess) with some attachments of letters noting concerns prior to ratification.
In the appendices, there’s a fun “Nature of Injury Data Table” starting on page 178 (192 in the PDF) where they list nearly every part of the body including some internal organs, basically anything that could break during baseball activities or dropping a suitcase on yourself. After that there are some attachments that look like standard forms to be filed during medical exams and injury diagnoses, along with some standard contracts and bits that were incorporated into the main body of this CBA.
If you’re interested in the revenue sharing market score thing, there’s a table on page 254 listing the ranks for all 30 clubs, with the Cubs and White Sox tied for fifth with a market score of 120. It was interesting that everyone from Texas down were under 100 which they used as a benchmark for the revenue sharing portion. So that’s 18 of the 30 MLB clubs under that threshold, so I’m not sure how that calculation works and now I’m too far down to re-read that section where they actually told you how it was done.
There’s a huge chunk in Attachment 28 starting on page 257 that covers tobacco use, which basically comes down to “maybe don’t use tobacco” but spanned like four pages to say that. Attachment 29 right after implies that players shouldn’t carry guns into the workplace. It does also cover explosives and brass knuckles.
Attachment 34 is pretty interesting because it governs how much access the media has to the players and clubhouse throughout the course of the game day. It starts on page 267 and even contains a section on how the team personnel shouldn’t threaten media with violence and how media shouldn’t steal bats from lockers.
Attachment 36 is the concussion protocol, and the assessment form starts on page 278 and is kind of a fun read for anyone interested, which does explain why the Cubs removed Yan Gomes so quickly from the game before putting him on the concussion IL earlier last week. From the initial letter to all the forms, this section is like 20 pages long.
At this point my eyes were blurring but I did scroll past some Rule 5 stuff, the international amateur player rules, clubhouse nutrition (mmm, kale smoothies) which covers at least three meals on game days, then there is like an anti-collusion Ministry of Truth document in attachment 49 starting on page 329 which includes stuff they can’t say to media when talking about free agency. Attachment 50 covers clubhouse rituals to prevent excessive hazing.
If you’re interested in reading this part, the domestic violence and sexual assault policy starts on page 336. This joint policy also covers child abuse, but so far I don’t think any MLB player has completed the trifecta. I suppose if you read through it enough, you might be able to ascertain why certain assholes (i.e. a Trevor Bauer) got suspended, but other assholes (i.e. a Mike Clevinger) did not. I guess I’m not smart enough to do that, and also this is really quite a long policy but at least we know it’s there and can try to refer to it for any future incidents (which I hope don’t happen, but humans are trash).
Kind of interesting that they list in attachment 55 (page 360) lists the elbow and shoulder, but not quads and hamstrings and obliques. Right after that are a couple attachments about biomonitors and in-game interview earpieces and how players can use social media (which probably should be better explained to certain players, but I digress). Then we have the Pete Rose rule, or the sports betting policy, which is funny considering how much clubs and MLB are about to rake in for sports betting so maybe let the players in on a cut if you’re not gonna let them bet directly?
Attachment 66 starting on page 400 is about broken bats, which gets its own acronym for multiple-piece bat failures (MPFs), which reminds me of how they remarked in the movie “Broken Arrow” that nukes get stolen so often that they have a term for it.
Appendix A is the MLB uniform player’s contract which I admit I have never seen in writing before so this is super cool for me. It starts on page 404 and is essentially a template on which you can write in the years of employ and the salary amount. The player has to be available for promoting the club and doing their pictures and public appearances (i.e. the Cubs Convention), which makes sense. This part is kind of funny for those of you who are fans of Eric Hosmer:
4.(a) The Player represents and agrees that he has exceptional and unique skill and ability as a baseball player;
There’s a chunk that says the player, while employed with the club playing baseball, agrees not to do boxing or wrestling, and refrain from skiing and other professional sports barring express written consent, so there could be a next Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders if they’re good enough, though Kyler Murray elected to play football (which is probably smart of him despite the higher risk of brain injury). Towards the end there’s a life insurance policy which sounds like it only insures the club because I guess the player has to insure himself to protect his family.
The last page is a matrix showing the travel times between different clubs for scheduling purposes. My guess is Seattle has the biggest numbers.
So that’s it, I was bored and didn’t want to do actual work so I did all that, but don’t worry too much, I did actual work before I did this silly read through and the employer understands that I have exceptional and unique skill and ability doing whatever it is I do for a day job.