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MLB lockout: A’s might receive revenue sharing again?

Oakland was phased out of revenue sharing in the previous labor deal

Oakland Athletics 2019 Draft Room
Forst, Beane, and Fisher
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Just when MLB lockout negotiations were starting to get boring again, an enormous new tidbit dropped Saturday night.

Among the various details being discussed, both sides are open to making the Oakland A’s a recipient of revenue sharing, reports Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors. Dierkes explains that the league is “looking” to make the move and the players are “willing to do that.”

The A’s used to receive money from the other clubs via revenue sharing, but they were phased out of the program in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement several years ago. From 2017-19 Oakland was given a reduced percentage of the usual payout, and the past two seasons they got nothing. Cutting them out of the program was a specific piece of that CBA, and now they might be singled out once again in this new deal to reverse that change.

Revenue sharing is one of the many topics that could come up during the current lockout negotiations, but it isn’t likely to undergo any significant updates. For an idea of how much it can be worth, the last time the A’s were full recipients back in 2016 they collected over $30 million.

Quick thoughts

This would be great timing for an influx of cash. After the financial setback of the pandemic in 2020, Oakland was on an even tighter budget than usual last season, reducing their payroll despite still being in position to contend for a championship. The slashing is expected to continue this winter as the team enters a rebuild and trades away some star players.

Presumably the monetary boost wouldn’t immediately shift the direction of this offseason for the A’s. The funds wouldn’t begin to arrive until next winter, and anyway the team is looking long-term in their goal to reset the core of the roster. But perhaps it could ease their freefall, by shortening the rebuilding process or making the teardown less severe or more efficient.

There might also be ramifications in the draft, depending on what changes come with the new labor deal. When Oakland stopped receiving revenue sharing a couple years ago, they stopped getting a pick in the Competitive Balance Rounds, and it will be interesting to see if they return to eligibility for that. Not only would it mean another high pick toward the top of the draft, but getting a CB pick increases your international bonus pool for that year’s amateur free agent market.

Furthermore, while the league and players have agreed to eliminate penalties for teams signing big free agents, that doesn’t preclude possibly continuing to give compensation to the teams who lose such stars. Under the old rules, revenue-sharing recipients got bigger rewards if they lost somebody.

Beyond the potential effects on budgets and rosters and farm systems, it’s interesting to consider what might have caused this change. One reason the A’s lost their revenue sharing in the first place was the lack of progress in their stadium search, but they’ve made serious advancement on that project lately, so perhaps this is a vote of confidence acknowledging their recent efforts. Additionally, Mark Polishuk of MLBTR opines that the players might see this as a larger opportunity — they want to talk about altering the revenue sharing system but the league won’t budge on the matter, and maybe this alteration could open the door to further discussion.

The precise causes and effects remain to be seen and the decision isn’t official yet, but one way or other, receiving dollars from revenue sharing would obviously be good news for the A’s.