The players are adamant that tanking is bad not only for them but for the sport as a whole, with owners running low payrolls and reaping profits despite diminished attendance, all the while promising fans that a better day might come in three or four or five years. The teams with the worst records are rewarded with the highest draft picks, so that link could be severed to encourage competition, perhaps with an NBA-style draft lottery.
Owners proposed a minimum payroll, which also could encourage competition as well as provide jobs for those non-elite veterans. The $43 million Scherzer will make next season is about the same as the currently projected payrolls of the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Guardians and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The union was wary of the likelihood that the minimum payroll would be linked to a modest adjustment in the luxury tax threshold and tougher financial penalties for surpassing it, which could mean more of the $2-million and $20-million contracts but fewer of the $200-million contracts.
Owners also proposed free agency at 29 1/2 years old rather than after six full seasons, responding to concerns that teams kept their best prospects in the minor leagues long enough to delay free agency by a year. The union was wary that, while more players might reach free agency sooner, the ones who get there at 26 or 27 now would get diminished contracts when they got there at an older…