Twins

How Could the Latest Proposed Rule Changes Impact the Twins?

Photo Credit: Kim Klement (USA TODAY Sports)

So Major League Baseball and its Players Union continue to be at odds as they negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

The latest negotiations happened over the last week between the two sides. Major League Baseball recently presented their latest proposal at the meeting, which the players did not meet kindly. Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers of ESPN laid out the league’s proposal and the likelihood of each point being adapted in some way.

Here’s how some of those rules could shake up how things are done at Target Field.

Universal DH

Implementing a universal designated hitter has been on the list of both sides for a while now. The league put that change on hold in 2021. However, now that rule seems to be done with both sides warm on the universal DH. Both sides could benefit significantly from a universal DH, which would double the number of jobs for the position. It would also extend some players’ careers whose defensive ability declines, and the league can put more sluggers in the lineup to generate more home runs and offense.

The Twins know how crucial a quality DH can be for their team after Nelson Cruz spent three seasons in the middle of their lineup. Many were unsure if he would return to Minnesota last year, but he ultimately came back mainly because the National League didn’t implement the universal DH.

A similar situation could happen someday with a potential free agent like Miguel Sanó or Josh Donaldson. Both move to DH full-time before hitting the free-agent market. The ability to re-sign them would be more difficult because of interest from NL teams who won’t exclusively have to use them as late-game pinch hitters.

The rule change would be good for baseball in general and something most fans are embracing. This rule change is almost certainly going to happen. It may change how the Twins negotiate with certain players, even if only in a few situations. American League teams like the Twins would lose a significant amount of leverage in their attempts to land designated hitters.

Expanded Postseason

Here’s where talks between the players and owners get a little more contentious. Baseball’s current 12-team playoffs are the hardest to qualify for compared to the other American professional leagues. Expanding the playoffs would add extra revenue and keep more teams competitive throughout the season. The league offered to expand the postseason to 14 teams, adding a team per league. However, ESPN did not report how that system would be structured.

An expanded playoff format would be beneficial for the Twins in 2022. Cornerstone players like Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton remain on the team from the 2019-20 playoff runs, but there has been significant turnover since then. An expanded postseason could allow the Twins to play in October with a different core of prospects led by Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Royce Lewis.

Even though the 2022 season might not be the best shot for the newer core to win, it would get them the much-needed experience of playing meaningful baseball games in late September and even October if the team reached the playoffs. That experience could help get some young players ready to play in the most important games and have a chance at breaking Minnesota’s 18-game playoff losing streak.

The expanded postseason isn’t a surefire bet to get done this offseason. As long as the Twins can add some pitching and stay healthy, the team has a shot at making a run at the Chicago White Sox.

Service Time/Arbitration Reform

The players’ concerns over service time and the arbitration system have to be one of the most significant issues they are looking to resolve this winter.

MLB is proposing that teams that include a top-100 prospect on their opening day roster and finish with Rookie of the Year or are in the top three in voting for MVP or Cy Young voting would be awarded an extra draft pick. There are some issues with the owner’s plan that Passan and Rogers share, but it is a step in the direction of the league addressing one of the player’s biggest demands in new CBA negotiations.

Service time has been a big issue for top prospects across the league. The Twins most recently held Kirilloff from reaching the big leagues until the season was nearly a month in for, *checks notes*, Kyle Garlick and Jake Cave. Whether or not the league’s proposal sticks, the old way of handling service time looks to be reaching its end. That’s a positive development for the Twins. It could encourage the team to promote top prospects like Lewis, Austin Martin, Jordan Balazovic, and others earlier to contribute to the big league club and worry less about losing them to free agency before prospects fully develop.

Baseball is also looking to change its arbitration system, allowing players under team control to negotiate their pay. MLB is looking to eliminate the current system and replace it with a formula-based measure for deciding salaries instead of a neutral arbiter. However, the players want changes to reach free agency sooner.

It’s still unknown how the league would implement this with players who are currently arbitration-eligible. However, the Twins will be monitoring it, considering how many of their players are in arbitration like Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers, and Mitch Garver. They also have impact players who are pre-arb like Luis Arraez and Jorge Alcala, among others. Minnesota has been relatively good at avoiding arbitration and coming to terms under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. However, José Berríos was a notable exception. But a change in the system could change how arbitration negotiations are handled.

Competitive Balance Tax/Draft Lottery

Talks don’t tend to cool down when the topic of spending and tanking by teams comes up, either. The issue isn’t that all teams aren’t spending enough money. It’s that enough teams are avoiding spending money in free agency or slashing payrolls to cause a significant hurdle for free agents to sign.

The league has offered to increase the luxury tax from $210 million to $214 million. However, the players want it raised to $245 million with tweaks to revenue sharing. Increasing the luxury tax threshold wouldn’t impact Minnesota that much because they had a $120 million payroll in 2021. However, an increased luxury tax threshold could affect the ability of other teams to sign players. Also, if the league implements revenue sharing somehow, that could allow the Twins some added flexibility to their offseason spending.

MLB is also looking to address tanking concerns from the player’s association by introducing a draft lottery system. Owners would like the top three teams in draft order put into a selection to decide who picks when. Earlier proposals from the players would see that number expand to the top eight teams. The Twins currently hold the No. 8 pick in the draft. A change in this formula would allow Minnesota to move up.

MLB’s latest proposal brings a mountain of discussion as labor talks continue at a frustratingly slow pace. Time will tell what proposed changes become hard policy or just negotiating chips. Regardless, the game will see some impactful changes for the next season and beyond for the Twins and all of baseball.

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