Rob Manfred reiterates MLB owners’ desire to limit length of contracts; MLBPA chief Tony Clark responds

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Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred recently reiterated the desire of MLB owners to limit the length of contracts for players. Manfred spoke about the topic during a press conference at the annual MLB owners’ meetings in Orlando.

The issue of lengthy, multi-year contracts has become a point of contention between MLB owners, who feel such contracts don’t represent a good investment for teams, and players, who often seek long-term deals as a way to provide security for their future.

According to Manfred, this year’s owner meetings focused heavily on the issue of contract length. Manfred said he understands that players want security but noted that teams are wary of being tied down to lengthy contracts that may not end up being worth the investment.

Manfred cited the recent decision by the Miami Marlins to trade outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees after signing him to a 13-year, $325 million contract in 2014. The Marlins believed they were taking a risk with such a lengthy contract, and ultimately decided to trade Stanton to avoid being stuck with the rest of the contract.

Manfred also noted that shorter contracts could increase player movement throughout the league, which he thinks is good for the game.

“From our perspective, one of the things that makes baseball compelling as a sport is the most important commodity is players,” Manfred said. “And in a sport that doesn’t have a salary cap, that means that the freer the movement of players, the better the economic interplay between supply and demand is going to work.”

The MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA) responded to Manfred’s comments through a statement from Executive Director Tony Clark. Clark pointed out that players have a right to seek the best contracts possible, and that if teams don’t want to offer lengthy contracts, then players will seek those deals from other teams that are more willing to do so.

Clark also criticized Manfred’s suggestion that shorter contracts would be better for the game, saying that it would actually lead to less player movement and would hinder players’ ability to secure fair value for their services.

“Players have been clear that they want a market-based system,” Clark said. “A system where they are able to receive fair value for their contributions on the field, and a system that rewards performance over time. A system where the best players in the game are able to maximize their value provides every team with greater economic opportunity.”

The issue of contract length is likely to remain a point of contention between MLB owners and the MLBPA throughout future negotiations. As the league continues to evolve, it remains to be seen which approach will ultimately win out.

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