Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have scheduled a negotiation session for 1:00pm ET on Thursday in New York, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. For those keeping score at home, Nightengale adds that tomorrow’s meeting will be the sixth session between both parties to discuss the sport’s next CBA since MLB instituted baseball’s lockout 78 days ago.
As disheartening as the frequency of these negotiating sessions has been, it could be an encouraging sign that tomorrow’s session will take place just five days after the two sides last convened. Last Saturday’s meeting revealed some minor concessions but didn’t yield much cause for optimism, as it lasted less than an hour and left both sides some mix of “unimpressed” and “underwhelmed”.
One reason for last weekend’s uneventful session was a continued disparity between how each party would like to alter the Competitive Tax Threshold. MLB proposed the luxury tax threshold increase to $222MM by 2026, with disincentives that would likely stop teams from crossing that threshold. The Player’s Association meanwhile would like to see team spending incentivized, not punished, and have been seeking a new tax threshold ending at $273MM in 2026.
As large as that $51MM gap between each side’s tax threshold proposal may appear, it pales in comparison to the $85MM gap between exchanged bonus pool figures. A bonus pool funded by central revenues to reward high-performing, pre-arbitration players has been one concept already agreed to by both parties, though how much these players should be rewarded is clearly a divisive subject. The Player’s Association lowered their bonus pool number by $5MM to $100MM to be divided amongst pre-arb performers, while MLB raised their proposal from $10MM to $15MM.
Further discussed topics included a raise to the league minimum, limiting the amount of times players can be optioned in a single season, and changes in the signing process of drafted and international amateurs. Fortunately, there seems to be mutual amenability to adjusting all three of these topics in the next collective bargaining agreement. However, as we’ve seen with previously suggested CBA changes like implementing a universal DH, even when both sides generally agree on a subject it’s no slam dunk they’ll see eye to eye to the point of implementation.
As is often the case with negotiations it may only take one new concession to start a chain reaction of agreements that, in this case, will ultimately lead to a new CBA. For either side to concede much of anything, they’ll need to meet at the bargaining table. Tomorrow’s sit-down then is certainly a welcome sight for the droves of fans who are skeptical a new CBA can be reached in time for the season to begin when originally scheduled on March 31.