Major League players with less than three seasons of service time (not including Super Two eligible players) are not eligible for arbitration and must accept whatever salary their team determines for them. This amount must be at or above a certain amount - in 2019 the league minimum salary is $555,000.
Just because the player is forced to accept that amount does not mean they necessarily agree to it, however. Sometimes players will not sign the contract and the team must renew the contract. This is done for symbolic reasons and does not have any real impact on the actual contract. Tommy Pham notably did this last season and the Cardinals renewed his contract. This year Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks have done the same.
The players were quick to specify this is not an act of protest against the organization, but more a symbolic act against a system they deem to be unfair. Not many players are very happy with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that had been agreed on by players and owners back in 2016 and is up for negotiation in 2021. This agreement lays out arbitration and the minimum salary along with free agency. Many argue the current system exploits younger players and the manner in which free agency has be trending lately, it appears these players will never recoup their lost earnings. Flaherty and Hicks would like to see changes to the system. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
...Flaherty said. “We’re grown men playing a kids’ game. We all remember that.... Obviously, there is a business side to it. I like to be informed and about how teams go about it. This has nothing to do with the Cardinals. I understand the way it works. Everybody plays under the same rules, it’s just that the entirety of the system is not great.”
While the current impact is small, the grievance is noted and that might be important come 2021.
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For first time this spring, #Cardinals leave open the possibility that Brett Cecil won't be on opening day roster as his weight loss has continued and lefty and team now look to find him regain balanced mechancis: https://t.co/0Kvqo6SM9T #stlcards #MLB— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) March 11, 2019
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