Padres pitchers and catchers should be getting ready to report to Spring Training in about a week. On Thursday we learned they might be able to do just that.
Or they might not.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred talked to the media on Thursday morning in Florida and painted a more positive picture than most of us were expecting. The consensus was he would officially delay the start of Spring Training as MLB's Lockout drags on. Instead we got something close to hope.
"The status of Spring Training is no change, right now," says Manfred. "We're going to have a conversation with the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) about the calendar but until we have that conversation it's no change."
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That conversation is expected to take place on Saturday, the next scheduled negotiating session that could potentially end the labor dispute. The Padres are supposed to open the regular season on March 31 at home against the Giants. If Spring Training is delayed the regular season could be delayed or, worse, condensed.
That's a very real possibility but Manfred does seem to grasp the potential damage that would do to the sport.
"I am an optimist and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule," says Manfred. "I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry and we're committed to making an agreement in an effort to avoid that."
Manfred outlined some of the things in their latest proposal to the MLBPA. On the positive side we have the following:
- Adopting the Universal Designated Hitter, meaning pitchers will not longer hit in either league
- Instituting a draft lottery similar to the NBA's to dissuade teams from tanking for better draft position
- Elimination of draft pick compensation, meaning teams that sign big-name free agents would not have to sacrifice a draft pick
- A proposed increase in minimum salaries and potentially instituting a Bonus Pool for young players who out-perform their base contract
That last one applies directly to young Padres stars like Jake Cronenworth, an All-Star in his 2nd season who made close to the league minimum. In that proposal Cronenworth would be awarded what amounts to a performance incentive as one of the best players at his position in the game.
The universal DH is also of note. In 2020 (and yes I know it's a small sample size), the only time the National League has used a DH, the Padres had one of the top-5 offenses in baseball. This development opens them and the rest of the NL up to signing players like Nelson Cruz and J.D. Martinez, offensive difference makers who don't really have a defensive position.
However, there are also things that still need to be worked on:
- Service time alterations, meaning when players reach arbitration and free agency
- Expanding the playoffs
- Competitive Balance Tax (Luxury Tax) floor, ceiling, and penalties for exceeding or not falling short of those thresholds
- Revamped revenue sharing agreement
Expanding the playoffs should be a no-brainer. More fan bases and clubs in post-season contention deeper into the season only generates more excitement for the game. Look no further than the NFL's expansion to 14 playoff teams this year for proof of that.
If everything goes well on Saturday, and the history of these talks suggests that's far from a guarantee, and both sides come to an agreement they would still both have to ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That means the Padres would likely be able to start Spring Training soon after.
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