MLBPA To Consider Changes To Arbitration Process

December 11th, 2011 probably seems like a long way away. Thousands more games will have been played by then and two more World Series champions will have been crowned. But as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, Michael Weiner sees that date a little more clearly than the rest of us. That’s because the collective bargaining agreement between the MLBPA and baseball’s owners expires next December 11th.

Weiner, who took over as MLBPA leader last year after two-plus decades of work with the association, is constantly in touch with players and staff to anticipate the changes that players and owners will discuss in a year and a half. And players have already identified salary arbitration as one of the issues they want to bring up in collective bargaining. That means super twos (players who go to salary arbitration four times instead of three) may no longer exist as we know them. But the MLBPA recognizes that the super two is better than nothing.

“Do we think super two is a good thing? Yes,” Weiner told MLBTR from his Manhattan office, overlooking Rockefeller Center. “Do we think that clubs now manipulating the super two cutoff is a good thing? No.”

Weiner says the super two works, compared to what preceded it. From 1985-90, no players with less than three years’ service time were eligible for arbitration. The players, who qualified for arbitration after two years before 1985, bargained for the super two in 1990 and as a result, one-sixth of players with more than two and less than three years of service now qualify. In other words, about ten or 20 more players go to arbitration each year.

Weiner keeps in touch with players through e-mail and text messaging during the season, though much of his networking happens in spring training. And he keeps tabs on the owners, too. He’s in touch with the people running baseball clubs and suggests the MLBPA isn’t the only side that would re-consider super twos.

“I think there’s some dis-satisfaction on the management side as well,” Weiner said. “What’s happened with some of these very prominent young players and the concern [exists] that arbitration eligibility has affected their path to the major leagues.”

Twenty years into the super two era, the cutoff date has become predictable. Yes, it varies every year, but teams know they can’t call prospects up much before the beginning of June if they want to be sure that the players only go to arbitration three times. 

Whether you consider those call ups strategic or manipulative, they affect the number of times a player goes to arbitration. From a player’s perspective, years of arbitration (and multi-million dollar salaries) trump the pre-arbitration years of unilateral control, when players sometimes receive raises, but are essentially at the mercy of their teams.

The players have already told the MLBPA to address arbitration in the next round of collective bargaining. Ideally, top young stars would be called to the majors the moment they’re deemed ready to contribute, but with millions of dollars at stake, teams have shown a willingness to wait. Coincidence or not, Stephen Strasburg (2010), Pedro Alvarez (2010), Mike Stanton (2010), Matt Wieters (2009), Jay Bruce (2008), Ryan Braun (2007) and others have been called up around June 1st in recent years.

It’s not contentious to suggest that it’s in the game's best interest to have the best players at baseball’s highest level. But Weiner points out that teams can call players up strategically whether the cutoff for arbitration eligibility is two years, three years or somewhere in between.

“Unless you come up with a system that makes it very difficult to know where that line is going to fall,” Weiner cautioned, “There’s always that possibility for manipulation.”

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20 Comments on "MLBPA To Consider Changes To Arbitration Process"

5 years 2 months ago

This is what I would do:

Remove the Super 2 Rule. Make it 3 full years again. Make an Elias type rating system for Prospects. All A rated prospects with at least 2 years minor service must be placed on the roster, if not they go into the Rule 5 Draft.

5 years 2 months ago

I’m not saying that I have a solution, but this won’t work at all. What about the kids that get drafted out of high school? After 2 years, they probably won’t even have sniffed AA. Requiring them to be placed on the ML roster would force teams to be rushing prospects, thus increasing the chances that a lot of the top talent flames out early.

5 years 2 months ago

The players, under Moffett, allowed it to go back to three years once. It will not happen again.
So an A rated prospect that plays full seasons in A and A+ has to be on the ML roster or be lost in the Rule 5? That’s not really practical.

5 years 2 months ago

Now correct me if I’m wrong but Braun was brought up closer to mid May than June 1. And I can clearly recall there was no conversation about his potential S2 status, it’s because of the very real reason that he was a 3rd basemen that couldn’t field a lick… Turned out not mattering, as they signed him long term, though there was a clause that escalated his earnings if he had reached Super 2 status.

5 years 2 months ago

i think it has more to do with the fact he got an 8 year contract as a rookie and bypassed arbitration entirely and 2 years of free agency.

5 years 2 months ago

It seems like a no-brainer to me to make it a full 3 years again IF the union is worried about teams holding back players to prevent Super-2 status. Cut and dry, easier solution to this “problem.” But, given that it is the MLBPA I seriously doubt that is how they’ll want to do it.I like the idea of a rating system for minor league players, especially top rated ones and the Rule 5 draft isn’t a bad solution either, but stick with a minimum of 4 years of minor league experience. Also some players just develop slower then others, you can’t really argue with holding some players back if they really need more development.But let’s keep it basic and not even worry with all of that, remove the Super-2 status and teams will promote the minor league players that warrant it. The only real source of this worry about minor league players not getting promoted quick enough, is because of the Super-2 rule.

5 years 2 months ago

Odd. A rule that was collectively bargained and approved by both sides, and the Association considers it manipulation. It is what it it. If you don’t like it make it a full 2/3 years next time.

5 years 2 months ago

“They are manipulating the rules” = “We would like to manipulate them by changing the rules”

5 years 2 months ago

My twist on the suggestion …

1. No Super Two’s as we know it today
2. Create a ranking system to identify the top 4 two year players
3. The top 4 start the arbitration clock early (after year 2) – all others go to year 3

The key is that the calculation has to weigh actual performance vs playing time to remove the incentive teams have to keep a player down. For example, if you use counting stats only teams will continue to allow players to linger in the minors until mid-season in order to reduce those types of numbers. However, if counting stats were used in combination with rate stats that incentive decreases.

5 years 2 months ago

If the Players manipulate a system without a salary cap, I don’t see anything wrong with teams being strategic in saving money to field a more competitive team.

5 years 2 months ago

My idea would be to eliminate the Super Two rule and have all players go to arbitration 3 teams. However, a change in the arbitration system would be added to value higher those players who have spent the most amount of time on the major league roster. That way the players who would’ve been eligible for Super Two can make more money during the arbitration process while clubs have less of an incentive to keep studs in the Minor Leagues.

I disagree with any system that forces (read: encourages) teams to keep their best players in the Minor Leagues for longer than necessary for monetary reasons. Also, I do not want to see a system in which players are forced to be promoted before they are ready due to some ranking system. The best system will be one that gets major league ready players to the MLB when they are ready and those players can be properly paid for their services

5 years 2 months ago

Or keep the Super 2 in place, but have the percentage determined randomly after the season :) They could average out to 16%, but some years it would be 24%, other years it would be 8%.

5 years 2 months ago

I would eliminate the super two category completely and increase the minimum salaries for second and third year players; maybe from $400,000 to $500K for second year and $600K for third year. This would bring cost certainty to owners and players and just might be revenue neutral when the arbitration cases are considered.

The big plus is bringing players to the show when they are ready talent-wise, not financially advantageous for the clubs.

5 years 2 months ago

That is sort of what I was thinking. I would say even higher than that to be honest. Heck, these guys are still “cheap” so, a bit more makes them happier, keeps the players in the league (not in the minors), and keeps the clubs from having to worry too much about salaries. It is sort of the middle ground compromise.

5 years 2 months ago

I find it amazing that the owners are always the bad guys…Here they try and save some money, by keeping a young player in the minors for a few extra months, even though more than likely the money saved will still be turned into player salaries…And if the owners don’t want to pay millions of dollars for an aging vet whose stats/baggage do not warrant the money, it must be collusion(sp?) When are the players going to shoulder some of this blame, and realize that maybe, just maybe they are being a little greedy…Would an extra 2 months in the minors really hurt any of those players??? In fact usually it helps them, but what do I know, I’m just a fan of baseball

5 years 2 months ago

couldnt of said it better myself!!!

the money the owners save from super 2 isnt being pocketed its going to other players salaries via free agency so mlbpa needs to get a grip…the players arent losing out trust me

its not the owners being cheap its the players being greedy

5 years 2 months ago

I think that the A/B ratings process needs a bigger overhaul than the super two process. Look at guys like Jason Varitek a few years ago. He was rated an A but no team was going to sign him if they had to give up 2 draft picks to get him. Granted he declined arbitration with Boston but he was really lucky they came back with a contract offer to him because he was dead in the water. There seems to be a guy like that every year, often relief pitchers.

5 years 2 months ago

I think that the A/B ratings process needs a bigger overhaul than the super two process. Look at guys like Jason Varitek a few years ago. He was rated an A but no team was going to sign him if they had to give up 2 draft picks to get him. Granted he declined arbitration with Boston but he was really lucky they came back with a contract offer to him because he was dead in the water. There seems to be a guy like that every year, often relief pitchers.

5 years 2 months ago

Super Twos should just be eliminated. If you want four years of arb, move FA back a year. That would give the players a choice: 3 years Arb and FA after yr 6 or 4 yrs Arb FA after yr 7.

5 years 30 days ago

The owners need to start having balls by not tendering a contract to arbitration eligibile players that get an overmarket salary thru arbitration. I understand these young guys that are 26 or 27 are good to control year by year, but the owners pay a premium for that.