7:24 pm: Drellich reports (on Twitter) that MLB is no longer pursuing the ability to reduce the sizes of minor league rosters, as it had previously been attempting. Jeff Passan of ESPN adds that while the league could try to shrink MiLB rosters unilaterally, they’re not planning to do so in either of the next two years.
Drellich also reports that the league’s latest proposal wouldn’t include a limit on the number of times teams could option a player to the minors in a given season. Previously, the league had offered a five-option-per-year cap, while the union had been seeking to set that mark at four seasons. The previous CBA did not contain any limit on the number of times a player could be optioned per year, although it generally limited players to being optioned in no more than three separate years.
6:01 pm: Only a week remains before Major League Baseball’s reported imposed deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement to be in place to avoid an interruption to the regular season. The league and Players Association are expected to meet more frequently on CBA issues over the coming days as the threat of losing games gets ever larger.
Today’s set of negotiations wrapped up this evening after the sides spent most of the afternoon reportedly discussing issues separately. After the league and union met for a little more than an hour, leadership on each side spent the bulk of the afternoon discussing things amongst themselves. The sides briefly reconvened at the end of the day before the meeting broke up (as chronicled in a tweet thread by Evan Drellich of the Athletic).
MLB had been “on the clock” after the MLBPA made the most recent core economics proposal last week. The league made its latest counteroffer today, which included small movement on issues like the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players and the draft lottery, Drellich reports (on Twitter). MLB offered to raise the bonus pool allotment to $20MM to be distributed a group of 30 players, a $5MM bump over its previous offers. That’s still well short of the amount sought by the Players Association, which increased its ask on the bonus pool to $115MM over a group of 150 players in its most recent offer. That still leaves a gap of $95MM between the two sides on the bonus pool, which hasn’t existed in previous agreements.
The league also offered to make the first four picks of the amateur draft determined by lottery, a one-pick increase from its previous offers. The union has sought to have the top eight picks be determined by a lottery, which would include all of the previous season’s non-playoff teams (with their odds of landing each selection presumably weighted by that season’s record). The purpose of a lottery system, which has been implemented by each of the NBA and NHL, is to reduce the advantage for teams that finish near the bottom of the standings by declining to automatically grant them a shot at the draft’s top prospects and highest signing bonus pool allotments.
Those movements perhaps represent small progress towards an agreeable midpoint, but there was no change regarding one of the biggest topics of discussion. Drellich tweets that the league made no movement on its previous proposals regarding the competitive balance tax. Where the tax thresholds will be set and what penalties will be in place for exceeding them remain contentious issues. The league has proposed modest increases to the base tax threshold (up from $210MM to $214MM in 2022, ending at $222MM by the end of the CBA) paired with higher penalties for surpassing the thresholds than had been in place previously. The union, on the other hand, has pushed for the CBT to spike to $245MM next season en route to a $273MM mark five years from now; the MLBPA also remains staunchly opposed to heightened penalties for exceeding the CBT.
Both Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe and Tim Healey of Newsday hear that the MLBPA was disappointed by the league’s proposal, with the lack of movement on the CBT particularly underwhelming in the union’s view. Jesse Rogers of ESPN tweets that MLB is actually waiting for a new offer from the union on the tax. The union’s proposal last week didn’t move off its previous offers regarding the CBT, and Rogers hears MLB thus considers it the Players Association’s turn to make a move in that regard.
In addition to the luxury tax, things like the union’s push for earlier arbitration eligibility for some players and the league minimum salary need to be sorted out. That’s in addition to closing the gap on the amount of money to be made available in the pre-arbitration bonus pools and the draft lottery, on which the league budged a bit today. Much remains to be done, although it does seem the parties are more encouraged than they’d previously been by the tenor of today’s talks. James Wagner of the New York Times hears that both sides found extended in-person discussions “helpful,” while Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet called the conversation “wide-ranging.” Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets that the sides are expected to resume negotiations tomorrow.