Rob Manfred wants to make 1 big change to MLB contracts

Oct 26, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before game one of the 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred called for a significant change to MLB player contracts, albeit one that will be a non-starter to the MLBPA.

Speaking at the Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sports conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Manfred spoke in favor of a maximum length of contracts, arguing that it would help younger players by putting more money in their hands.

“A reform that has been of interest to ownership for a number of years is a limitation of contract length,” Manfred said, via Evan Drellich of The Athletic. “Obviously players love it, it gives them financial security for a very long period of time. The difficulty — and I think players will come to appreciate this as time goes by — those contracts result in a transfer from the current stars to yesterday’s stars. At some point, that has to be true. And I think it is an issue that is important for us to stay focused on, because it creates inflexibility that affects the quality of the teams that you put on the field.”

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded in a statement by accusing Manfred of “attacking fundamental aspects of baseball’s free market system and the freedom of clubs and players to structure deals in the best interests of all parties,” making it clear that the union would not support any such proposal.

The lack of limitations on MLB contracts has led to some players signing remarkably lengthy deals. Both Rafael Devers of Boston and Manny Machado of San Diego signed 11-year contract extensions with their current clubs prior to the start of the season. This is in contrast with a league like the NBA, which does have an upper limit on contract value and length.

Whether Manfred’s statement about the perceived benefits of such a limit is true or not, it is clear that the league would like more safeguards on some of the megadeals that have been handed out to players. The players, in contrast, will never actually agree to that, at least not without significant concessions the league probably would not give up.