4:07 pm: Next steps remain unclear. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that there’s no set date for negotiations, but it’s possible discussions resume next week. Key league personnel will be in Orlando from Tuesday through Thursday for a scheduled quarterly owners meeting. Union representatives are expected to be available if a date for the next set of sessions is finalized. Commissioner Rob Manfred has a press conference scheduled for Thursday, and Nightengale writes he’s likely to formally announce a delayed start to Spring Training at that point.
2:25pm: Major League Baseball has offered the following response to the MLBPA’s statement:
“Our goal is to have players on the field and fans in the ballparks for Spring Training and Opening Day. With camps scheduled to open in less than two weeks, it is time to get immediate assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help us work through our differences and break the deadlock. It is clear the most productive path forward would be the involvement of an impartial third party to help bridge gaps and facilitate an agreement. It is hard to understand why a party that wants to make an agreement would reject mediation from the federal agency specifically tasked with resolving these disputes, including many successes in professional sports. MLB remains committed to offering solutions at the table and reaching a fair agreement for both sides.”
While the league maintains it is committed to “offering solutions at the table,” it has yet to respond to the proposal issued by the MLBPA on Tuesday or provide a timeline as to when such an offer might be put forth.
12:45pm: One day after Major League Baseball declined to issue a counteroffer to the MLBPA’s latest proposal in collective bargaining talks and instead requested federal mediation, the MLBPA issued a statement rejecting that request. It reads as follows:
“Two months after implementing their lockout, and just two days after committing to Players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation.
After consultation with our Executive Board, and taking into account a variety of factors, we have declined this request.
The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table. Players stand ready to negotiate.”
It’s a wholly unsurprising outcome, given the manner in which meetings between the two sides have played out thus far. Major League Baseball’s suggestion for a federal mediator was always eyebrow-raising, given their lack of any kind of new proposal. There’s nothing to mediate, after all, when one side declines to even bring an offer to the table. As Sheryl Ring points out (Twitter thread), mediation of this nature is generally a measure taken when both sides have submitted a good-faith proposal to resolve a dispute, and a third party then helps foster progress toward a resolution.
The MLBPA submitted its most recent proposal on Feb. 1, wherein they offered only a marginal drop from a proposed $105MM pre-arbitration bonus pool to $100MM but also agreed to a league-proposed framework regarding changes to service time for young players. Specifically, MLB suggested awarding compensatory draft picks to teams that rostered young prospects who went on to finish well in Awards voting. That, in theory, would give teams some incentive to carry top prospects on their Opening Day roster rather than hold them in the minors for three weeks to secure an additional year of club control, as is so often the case. The union, in addition to its extremely modest drop in the pre-arbitration bonus pool, reportedly made some yet-unspecified tweaks to the league’s latest service-time proposal.
While details remain unclear, it’s evident that the league was nonplused by whatever ostensible were put forth by the players. A counter-offer was said to be in the works, but MLB instead shifted the onus back to players in a different and unexpected manner when it made its mediation request.
The end result is another several days with no progress, little to no actual negotiation, and a narrower window to conclude matters before the season begins. It’s already a foregone conclusion that Spring Training won’t be starting on time, and a best-case scenario now appears to be a truncated version of spring camps that still leaves enough time for players to ramp up for the regular season. There’s no guarantee that’ll happen, however, and the longer the interminable deadlock in negotiations lingers, the likelier it becomes that the regular season will be impacted.
As things stand, it’s not at all clear when talks will resume. Several players — James Paxton, Zack Britton and Whit Merrifield among them — have taken to social media to express some frustration with the lack of an MLB counterproposal (all Twitter links). They’ve joined up in offering a unified message that “a significant part of collective bargaining is… actually bargaining” — a message that other players are continuing to echo in greater number.
Now that the mediation request has been denied, one would assume a league counteroffer to be the next logical step, though MLB has yet to offer a rebuttal to the union’s latest statement.