MLB intends to curb team spending on tech, staffing limits

MLB team spending on tech, multiple people briefed on the discussions told The Athletic that Major League Baseball and high-ranking club officials have explored limiting how much teams can spend on things other player wages, like technology, player development, scouting, and health.

Management groups have discussed potential cost limitations in private meetings. Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, raised the idea again last week in a phone call with club financial executives.

A league spokesperson said MLB’s focus has been on technology vendors, rather than staffing.

“There is nothing happening on that front,” the spokesperson said. “What we are focused on is gathering information on vendor costs to find potential cost savings through efficiencies and to ensure equal access to all technology.”

However, other officials who were briefed on or participated in some of these meetings claimed that the same reasoning applied to personnel. At least some clubs would welcome caps on expenditure in any area that can impact on-field success, including player salaries or other factors. Longtime complainers of having to match the spending power of larger market teams are executives with smaller market teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred related a tale about an owner who was perplexed by how big his analytics team had gotten just before Opening Day.

“I heard (the idea of limits) discussed at the ownership level,” said a different club official this week. “I don’t know where it originated. It’s about competitive balance. … I’ve been in the game 20 years. The number of people we have in our clubhouse working with the players has tripled, quadrupled in size.”

MLB would likely use the sport’s antitrust exemption to limit employee spending, and teams would avoid hiring practices that directly compete with each other.

The league would be exposed to some risk as a result. Utilizing the exemption in a different way can result in fresh legal arguments against it or closer congressional scrutiny.

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