Report: MLB Proposes Universal Free Agency Age amid Service-Time Concerns

Blake SchusterContributor ISeptember 2, 2021

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 25: Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on July 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

As Major League Baseball and the players' association prepare to enter the offseason on an expiring collective bargaining agreement, the league and union reportedly have already begun discussing ways to adjust service-time rules related to free agency.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the two sides met in Denver on Aug. 16 with the league proposing a formula to disperse $1 billion to all arbitration-eligible players and create universal free agency for those over the age of 29.5.

Per Sherman:

"Not all elements of the plan have become public and it is difficult to gauge the full impact of a proposal without understanding how all the details play off one another. Both sides refused to comment on what The Post had learned.
"In its proposal addressing service time, MLB was, at minimum, looking to address the unionโ€™s concern about service-time manipulation. Players reach arbitration and free agency based on their service, and teams have held back players deserving of promotion to the majors to slow the clock from moving toward those money-making levels."

Currently players must reach six years of service time in MLB before reaching free agency. 

Service time has long been an issue irking fans and players alike. In recent years, clubs have manipulated when they call up prospects during the season in order to ensure they don't reach free agency too early.

The Chicago Cubs provided the most extreme example with Kris Bryant in 2015, leading the former MVP to file a grievance he went on to lose. 

The age 29.5 requirement proposed by MLB may not satisfy the players, either. A number of star players have been promoted to the Majors at younger ages like Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco (20), Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto (19) and Chicago White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez (22). The proposal would handicap their ability to sign multiple contracts before reaching age 30.

Sherman noted the union is also likely to push back on the idea of the $1 billion pool over concerns of it becoming a de facto salary cap.

As far as the big picture is concerned, it can be seen as a positive that both sides are willing to talk through these issues well in advance of the CBA expiring in December. Just how long these talks remain amicable remain to be seen.