Tigers owner Ilitch won’t comment on MLB luxury tax report

Lakeland, Florida. – The Athletic reported Friday that four Major League Baseball owners, including Christopher Ilitch of the Tigers, opposed the increased competitive balance tax in the owners’ best and final proposal on a new collective bargaining agreement. which was presented to the players association earlier this week.

This proposal was immediately rejected by the union, even with a $10 million increase in the threshold to $220 million. Players wanted it increased to $238 million.

Negotiations then broke down – although the parties are still discussing and sharing proposals – and the first two regular season series were canceled by commissioner Rob Manfred.

From left, Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and manager AJ Hinch stand with a crystal coin commemorating Cabrera's 500th home run before a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Friday, September 29.  24, 2021.

“Whether you’re an owner, player or fan, we all can’t wait to get baseball back on the field,” Ilitch said in a statement late Friday. “As we continue to work toward that goal, it is not helpful to the process for me to comment on internal MLB questions or speculation.

“We’re all ready to feel the excitement and energy of the season here in Detroit, and know our fans are looking forward to enjoying Tigers baseball as soon as possible.”

Besides Ilitch, Bob Castellini of the Reds, Ken Kendrick of the Diamondbacks and Arte Moreno of the Angels are also believed to have voted against the proposal in the owners’ caucus.

Athletic cited three unnamed sources who were “taught of an owner-side call held this week”. A league source close to the negotiations told the Detroit News there was no confirmation on how or what an owner voted on.

Additionally, according to the source, the report speculated that the four owners specifically voted against increasing the Competitive Balance Tax, but those opposing votes could have been cast for a number of other reasons. .

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Anyway, the proposal was adopted by 26 of the 30 teams. The votes of the opposing caucuses have lost all meaning. Especially after the union rejected it.

A bit of hindsight: The owners, since the start of negotiations, have been united in their objective to maintain the current levels of the CBT threshold. Manfred has repeatedly said that CBT is the only mechanism available to help level the playing field between large-market and small-market franchises.

“Amending the current deal by taking resources away from clubs with limited incomes would make the game less competitive,” he said.

Baseball is the only sport without a salary cap – although players argue that the CBT acts like one. Baseball is absolutely the only sport with such a drastic payroll disparity — in 2021, the Dodgers’ payroll was $286 million and the Orioles’ was $42.4 million.

The union strongly rejected a salary cap, leaving teams with the CBT as the sole governor of salary spending. And initially the owners wanted to toughen up the CBT, make it more punitive against overtaking teams.

The players resisted and the league removed him from the roster. The $10 million increase was a compromise.

That clubs were willing to raise the threshold, even though it was still well below what players are looking for, was a concession. That three small and medium market teams voted, in caucus, to keep CBT levels as they were shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Especially given the very likelihood of the playoff format being expanded under the new deal, whether to 12 teams or 14 teams. It would be a boon for small and medium-sized teams and another reason to stay firm on the luxury tax threshold.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Friday that the union has told the league it would be willing to reopen negotiations on a possible 14-team playoff and drop their resistance to the CBT.

Regarding Ilitch, however, even if he was opposed to increasing the CBT – and again, the report cites his vote in a caucus, not in ratification, a key distinction – it is not necessarily a vote. against the increase in its own payroll. The Tigers spent $225 million on Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez and Tucker Barnhart before the lockout.

Once the lockout is lifted, the Tigers should sign at least one more starting pitcher and possibly another reliever.

They also exited the previous year and signed the most sought after and probably the most expensive manager in the market, AJ Hinch.

“It’s a turning point, no doubt,” Ilitch said after the Tigers signed Baez. “It sends a message to the rest of baseball. The Tigers are here to compete.

A purported vote to hold firm on the luxury tax threshold does not necessarily contradict this statement.

More importantly, four owners have taken a hard line against the proposal, whether because of CBT or other issues. A new collective agreement will require 23 votes from the owners. The margin is thin.

The proposal the owners made earlier this week represented a huge win for players in several areas – including minimum wage increases, increased signing bonus pools, more money and more opportunities for young players, a universal designated hitter, late draft pick pay. on free agency, a draft lottery.

Greater union stubbornness, as perceived by owners, could push more owners against the current CBT proposal.

The good news is that key negotiators from both sides met on Thursday and another round of talks could be scheduled for next week.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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