CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Major League Baseball owners held a lengthy executive session to discuss bargaining strategy over contentious issues such as revenue sharing ahead of the start of negotiations for a new labor contract with players.
Revenue sharing was a divisive issue before and during the 1994-95 negotiations that led to a 7 1/2-month strike. Some teams that pay revenue sharing money have expressed anger at receiving clubs they think are not maximizing their local revenue.
“You try to be creative about how you address their concerns, and you re-emphasize to people that we have a democratic process and we have to move forward as a whole at the end of the day,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said after Thursday’s session that was limited to one representative from each of the 30 clubs.
Manfred’s first anniversary as Bud Selig’s successor is Monday, and bargaining with the players’ association is expected to start during spring training. The current five-year deal expires Dec. 1.
“I think that every one of the 30 recognize that revenue sharing is part of the legacy of Bud Selig,” Manfred said. “It’s helped produce tremendous competitive balance in our sport, and I think as of a result of those two realizations, it’s less controversial among the clubs than it probably was 20 years ago.”
The threshold at where the luxury tax starts and its rates also have become key components of the labor agreement. Management also has talked about a renewed push for an international amateur draft.
After a series of eight work stoppages from 1972-95, baseball has had two decades of labor peace, the longest current stretch among the major U.S. professional leagues. The union will enter bargaining for the first time since former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark became its head following the death of Michael Weiner.
On other topics:
MLB pushed back this year’s deadline to make trades without waivers by one day to Aug 1, avoiding having the 4 p.m. deadline pass on a Sunday while many games are in progress.
Manfred says NL teams may be more receptive to the DH than in the past. It has been used in the AL since 1973.
“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some sort of heretical comment,” Manfred said. “But we have a newer group. There has been turnover, and I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans, always respecting the history and traditions of the sport.”
Video review is making a slight expansion and can be used to place baserunners on overthrows into the seats and on fan interference.
MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem updated owners on the labor market, which saw Johnny Cueto, Jason Heyward, Scott Kazmir, David Price and Justin Upton agree to contracts with opt-out provisions. Pitcher Zack Greinke terminated a $147 million, six-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers after three seasons and signed a $206.5 million, six-year deal with NL West rival Arizona.
“Obviously the opt out seems to be the flavor of the month right now,” Manfred said.
Baseball’s investigating of the St. Louis Cardinals’ hacking into the player database and email system of the Houston Astros will be a slow process. Former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer from 2013 to at least 2014.
“The government is uniquely positioned to know exactly what happened there,” Manfred said. “If I conduct my own investigation, the idea that I would be able to uncover the sort of information they can with the benefit of subpoenas and warrants and whatnot, I mean, it’s just not realistic. ... I’m hopeful that as that process moves along, that the U.S. Attorney will share as much information as he can with us, and I’ll try to make the best decision possible.”
MLB is unsure when it will complete investigations of New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes under the sport’s new domestic violence policy.
“I would love to have these resolved before we begin play again,” Manfred said. “The one thing I’ve learned about these cases is timing is not mine, right? You have to really rely on the criminal process playing out in order to put yourself in a position that you’re comfortable to actually know what the facts are.”
Owners voted in August to create BAM Tech, a spinoff for the non-baseball business of MLB Advanced Media, which owns MLB.com. Now MLB hopes to sell a stake in the spinoff.
“We remain interested in a transaction that might bring us a partner that will put us in a position to grow what we think is a great business into an even greater business,” Manfred said, adding the timetable for a deal was “weeks, not years, probably not months.”
Manfred termed this week’s settlement of an antitrust lawsuit against MLB “maybe the biggest piece of good news.” Lawyers for fans who filed the class action lawsuit in 2012 said MLB will offer unbundled Internet packages for the next five years at a price 23 percent lower than the cheapest version previously available.
Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg were elected to full four-year terms on MLB’s executive council.