New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole and other baseball players will be pushing for changes that make more teams competitive as they think about looming labor negotiations that could lead to a work stoppage at the start of 2022.
Many veterans who are not top stars have taken substantial paycuts in recent years. Others have turned down cuts and retired.
The players’ association is upset that some teams have lowered major league payroll in favor of rebuilding with youth, a process it calls tanking and that management defends as long-allowed refocusing on retooling for long-term gain.
“For me, it just goes back to competitiveness,” Cole said Thursday. “We have a lot of great veterans that offer great entertainment, a quality style of baseball, that continuously are being pushed out because of surplus value on younger players is too high — the analytics are driving the game in that direction. And we want to have an open field for the clubs to be able to find talent, find surplus value.”
Cole is starting the second season of a $324 million, nine-year contract, the largest deal among pitchers. He was elected in December to the union’s eight-man executive subcommittee, its highest-ranking policymaking body.
The average Major League Baseball salary dropped for an unprecedented third straight year, even before the shortened season caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The players’ association calculated the 2020 average would have been $3.89 million if a full season had been played. That was down 4.2% from the 2019 average of $4.05 million and represented a 5.2% decrease from the record average of just under $4.1 million in 2017.
Because the pandemic caused players to receive roughly 37% of pay last year, the actual average plunged to $1.59 million, its lowest since 1998.
“There’s always concern when the average salary is dropping,” said Yankees reliever Zack Britton, also an executive committee member. “Yeah, definitely issues that we would like to change. And I think MLB probably has issues that they would like to change, too. But to the best of my knowledge, we’re going to work through those things.”