MLB commissioner Rob Manfred drew the ire of MLBPA executive director Tony Clark on Tuesday after suggesting owners would like to limit the length of player contracts.

Speaking at Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sports conference in Los Angeles, Manfred responded to a question about MLB’s long-term deals by stating that it’s something the owners would like to address.

“A reform that has been of interest to ownership for a number of years is a limitation of contract length,” Manfred said at the event, according to 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.”

Clark was quick to fire back at the commissioner, stating that the players’ union will never accept such a cap in any collective bargaining agreement.

“The public statements from Rob Manfred about the owners’ desire to limit guaranteed contracts is just one more in a series of statements 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,” Clark told Drellich.

“The ability of individual clubs to act in their own self-interest in determining how best to put an exciting product on the field for their fans is not something that should be restricted. Anyone who believes that players would ever endorse an assault by management on guaranteed contracts is badly mistaken.”

Clark and Manfred successfully negotiated MLB’s most recent CBA last spring, but the two leaders have continued to spar since, perhaps with an eye toward the next round of negotiations after the 2026 season.

In March, Manfred said that MLB – the only major North American professional sports league without a salary cap – would be open to adopting one in the future. Those comments came one month after Clark stated unequivocally that players would never accept a cap in baseball.

Because MLB doesn’t have term limits on its contracts, teams haven’t been shy about handing out long-term deals. San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. inked a 14-year contract, the longest deal in league history, before the 2021 season that’ll likely cover most of his career. Other stars that signed lengthy deals over the winter included Aaron Judge (nine years), Xander Bogaerts (11), and Manny Machado (10-year extension).

However, many long-term deals in MLB history have drawn criticism as players’ production has declined over the life of the contract. Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players of his generation, was released during the final season of his 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels in 2021 amid one of the worst stretches of his career.

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