MLB lockout: The logical flaw in the MLBPA negotiating stance

Sep 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer (left) tosses his helmet after striking out to end the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer (left) tosses his helmet after striking out to end the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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SAN DIEGO, CA – SEPTEMBER 4: Wil Myers #5 of the San Diego Padres flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Petco Park on September 4, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA – SEPTEMBER 4: Wil Myers #5 of the San Diego Padres flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Petco Park on September 4, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

For public consumption, the MLBPA has consistently framed its focus in the current labor negotiations as a fight for competitive balance. MLBPA leadership had devoted the preponderance of its public statements to the need to upgrade lower-end salaries.

It has presented that case mostly as a matter of equity. Although the headline-grabbers are the mega-contracts signed by the game’s elite, those players are in the vast minority both numerically and in terms of value produced.

The 2021 roster of the San Diego Padres offers an illustration of this that can be replicated virtually across the game.  At $171.11 million, the team’s opening day payroll ranked among the top third.

Four Padres — Manny Machado ($34 million), Yu Darvish ($23 million), Wil Myers ($22.5 million) and Eric Hosmer ($21 million) — earned more than $20 million. Plainly this was a club that was willing to spend big to chase glory.

Yet those four stars produced only 8.2 of the team’s cumulative 35.6 WAR. That’s less than one-quarter of the overall value flowing from players who picked up nearly 60 percent of the proceeds.

In fact, among the 54 players who wore a Padres uniform some time during 2021, 34 — that’s more than 60 percent — got less than $1 million in compensation, the vast majority of those 34 working for the MLB minimum.

Three Padres — Jake Cronenworth, Trent Grisham and Nabil Crismatt — matched the collective 8.4 WAR of Machado, Myers, Darvish and Hosmer, and did so while earning a total of $1.76 million. That’s less than 2 percent of the salaries of Machado, Darvish, Myers and Hosmer for an identical production.