Major League Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires on December 1. Negotiations between owners and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have been awfully quiet so far, and it does not seem like the two sides will have an agreement settled in 10 days time. However, with so much money coming into the game right now — not to mention the longest current stretch of labor peace in major professional sports, something commissioner Rob Manfred undoubtedly wants to maintain in his first round of CBA negotiations — a work stoppage seems unlikely.
Changes are coming, though. They won’t be radical — players will still use bats, balls, and the like — but the game we know and love will be slightly different come 2017. Over the weekend, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times detailed some of these potential changes and how they could affect the game.
In particular, there are a few tweaks that could benefit the Detroit Tigers next season.
Adding a 26th roster spot
Of the potential changes in the next CBA, changes in roster size will have the biggest effect on the actual day-to-day happenings of the game. Current reports suggest that active rosters will expand to 26 players full-time next season. Unfortunately, this just means that most team will carry an extra reliever — so much for improving the pace of game, right?
However, the Tigers stand to benefit more than most teams from this rule. They currently have a logjam of players who have run out of minor league options. Those players — Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins, Steven Moya, and Dixon Machado — will either need to make the active roster or clear waivers to stay in the organization. While the Tigers are unlikely to keep all four, a 26th roster spot could help them better juggle their roster until a better solution is discovered.
(Or they could finalize a huge trade tomorrow and make this article irrelevant.)
An international draft
There has been a surprising amount of pushback from the MLBPA on an international amateur free agent draft. Under the current system, teams are free to sign whatever amateur free agent players they want, provided they don’t live in Puerto Rico, Canada, or the U.S. (these players are subject to the domestic MLB draft). There are limits on how much teams have spent, but those have been largely ignored.
The Tigers have largely been shut out of the top amateur talent in recent years, instead choosing to spread their bonus pool money around without exceeding their limits. While some have applauded this strategy, it has not yet turned out any prospects of note. An international draft would essentially force the Tigers to join the grownups table, giving them a shot at one of the top 30 amateur talents available in any signing period.
This would help replenish the Tigers’ farm system in a way that their conservative spending strategy has not. However, given what the international draft represents — a blatant cash-grab by the owners as they try to restrict spending — it’s hard to fall in lock-step with the spirit of the rule, even if it would benefit the Tigers more than other teams.
Changes in the luxury tax system
There won’t be major alterations to the current system in place, but all signs point towards the luxury tax threshold rising in the next CBA. This could help the Tigers and their $200+ million payroll sneak under that barrier and avoid being taxed on their overages in 2017. It should not affect them much long-term — the team wants to build a more sustainable winner through their farm system, which will cut costs on its own — but it may encourage ownership to stick with the bulk of the current roster for at least one more year.
(Again, watch the Tigers finalize a huge trade tomorrow and make this article irrelevant.)
Capping September rosters at 28 or 29 players
This rule won’t benefit the Tigers more than any other MLB team, but it will hopefully stop managers (like former White Sox skipper Robin Ventura) from using every friggin’ reliever in their bullpen in the sixth inning of a 9-3 blowout on September 17. I’ll take it.
Changes in free agent compensation
The current qualifying offer system seems to be the sticking point on both sides in this round of CBA negotiations. Many feel that free agent compensation is important, but some players who decline qualifying offers are being unfairly punished because teams don’t want to forfeit a first round draft pick for their services. No one knows what a new compensation system will look like — your guess is as good as mine right now — but changes will be made, as the MLBPA has long fought against restrictions on player movement. If the resulting change means the Tigers keep more of their future draft picks, I’m in favor.