Test for MLB players will be how deal looks to them in ’26
NEW YORK (AP) — Now comes the test: Will baseball players be happy with their new collective bargaining agreement in 2026?
They clearly were unhappy with the just-expired five-year contract, which saw payrolls drop to their lowest level since 2015.
The agreement reached Thursday raises the competitive-balance tax threshold by $34 million over five years, up from a $21 million hike over the 2017-21 deal and an $11 million rise from 2011-16.
“I think that the MLBPA historically has wanted a market-based system. Over multiple negotiations that has been a primary objective of theirs,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said after Thursday’s deal ended a 99-day lockout.
“Markets produce market results. And I think that the changes that were made in this agreement moved dramatically in their direction on topics like the CBT threshold, and I think you’ll probably see a little different market results as a result of the changes.”
Young star players were the biggest beneficiary of the deal.
Shohei Ohtani earned $545,000 in 2018, when he was voted AL Rookie of the Year. Had the new agreement been in place then, he would have earned an additional $750,000.
Cody Bellinger was at $605,000 in 2019, when he won NL MVP. Under the new deal, he would have gotten an extra $2.5 million.
The minimum salary goes up from $570,500 to $700,000, a 22.7% rise that is the largest in a single season since 2003.
The union also hopes the deal boosts the middle: The median salary was $1.15 million at the start of last season, according to calculations by The Associated Press, down 30% from the $1.65 million record high at the start of 2015.
“The deal pushes the game forward,” Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, a member of the union’s executive subcommittee, said in an telephone interview with the AP. “It addresses a lot of the things that the players in the game should be focused on: the competitive integrity aspect of it.”
Veteran players in leadership hoped to get more. The union’s executive subcommittee voted 8-0 against the deal: Zack Britton, Jason Castro, Cole, Francisco Lindor, Andrew Miller, James Paxton, Max Scherzer and Marcus Semien. Five of the eight are represented by agent Scott Boras, and Castro, at $3.5 million, is the only one of the eight who earned under $12 million last year.
Team player representatives voted 26-4 in favor, leaving the overall player executive committee vote 26-12 to approve.
“You call it a division, I call it a healthy dialogue and conversation,” union head Tony Clark said at a news conference Friday,
Clark and Manfred notably did not have a joint news conference. Clark chose to wait a day for his.
“I spoke to Tony after their ratification vote. I told him that I thought we had a great opportunity for the game in front of us,” Manfred said. “One of the things that I’m supposed to do is promote a good relationship with our players. I’ve tried to do that. I think that I have not been successful in that. I think that it begins with small steps.”
Clark said Manfred called him on Thursday to congratulate him on the union’s ratification vote.
“There’s a lot of work to do moving forward with respect to where our game is at and where we need to head,” Clark said.
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