7:19PM: The MLBPA and the league have agreed to resume talks at noon CT on Sunday, according to multiple reports.
4:39PM: Today’s negotiating sessions between the league and the MLB Players Association have concluded for the day, after a pair of separate meetings between the two sides. After each group conferred privately for an extended period of time, MLBPA reps presented a new proposal to the owners during a 15-minute session. The ownership group then took time to mull over the offer before another meeting with the players that lasted roughly 45 minutes.
The union’s proposal was a “comprehensive” offer that addressed several core economic issues, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers (Twitter links). Perhaps most importantly in terms of finding common ground on a new collective bargaining agreement, the MLBPA is now “backing significantly off” some of its most noteworthy asks in previous offers. This includes changes to the players’ previous demands about the luxury tax, an expansion in Super Two eligibility, and cuts to the amount of revenue-sharing funds allocated to smaller-market teams.
Despite these concessions, the owners still “reacted badly” to the latest union offer, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reports. This led to an “outraged” reaction from the players and a “hostile” tone in the second meeting between the two sides. As per Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post, the “players are currently considering walking away from the table” altogether, rather than take part in meetings that were slated for tomorrow and Monday.
As reported by ESPN’s Enrique Rojas (Spanish-language link) and The Associated Press, the MLBPA is now seeking to expand Super Two eligibility to 35% of all players who have between two and three years of service time. This represents a major decrease from the players’ previous ask of 75% of all players within that service-time window, and yet apparently it isn’t enough to change the owners’ stance. The league has been steadfast in refusing any expansion to the Super Two structure — in the last CBA, the top 22% of players with between two and three years of service time received an extra year of arbitration eligibility.
Likewise, the league has refused any discussion of changes to the revenue-sharing structure. The union initially sought a $100MM cut in revenue-sharing funds, and later dropped that demand to $30MM. Today’s proposal altered that number further, as teams receiving revenue-sharing wouldn’t lose any money, but would still be incentivized to increase local revenue with the offer of extra money made available from MLB’s central fund. However, the owners are still not willing to budge whatsoever on the topic.
Discussions about the competitive balance tax have at least led to some back-and-forth negotiations, albeit without much progress. The players made a $2MM reduction for each of the second, third, and fourth years of luxury tax thresholds, breaking down the numbers as follows: a $245MM tax number in 2022, $250MM in 2023, $257MM in 2024, $264MM in 2025, and $273MM in 2026.
The league made only one change to its base tax thresholds, with a $1MM increase to the second year of the CBA. The owners’ proposed luxury tax thresholds are $214MM in 2022, $215MM in 2023, $216MM in 2024, $218MM in 2025, and $222MM in 2026.
In regards to the penalties for exceeding those thresholds, Major League Baseball again made only slight adjustments from its previous offer. In today’s proposal from the league, teams exceeding each of the three levels for the first time would pay a 45% tax on the overage of any dollar spent between $214MM-$234MM, a 62% tax on overages from $234MM-$254MM, and a 95% tax rate on the overage for anything spent beyond the $254MM mark. Previously, the league wanted respective tax rates of 50%, 75%, and 100% for each of the three thresholds.
These are obviously still sizeable jumps over the overage tax rates in the last CBA (20%, 32%, and 62.5%), and the league has compounded the penalty by asking that teams that surpass the second and third tiers lose draft picks. The MLBPA has been adamantly against the owners’ luxury tax asks, viewing the demands as essentially the creation of an unofficial salary cap.
As reported yesterday by Drellich and Ken Rosenthal, the league has been looking shorten the amount of time required before unilateral on-field rule changes can be imposed. The previous CBA had a one-year grace period between a league’s proposal and (whether the union agreed to the rule changes or not) the implementation of said new rules, though the owners are now looking for a grace period of only 45 days. The MLBPA has been resistant to this shorter window of time, and the league needs the players’ approval in the next CBA to agree to the owners’ ability to implement unilateral rule changes of any kind.
Returning to the issue of service time, the league has agreed that players who finish first or second in Rookie Of The Year voting will receive a full year of service time. (Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was among those to report the news.) This counts as a minor win for the players, even if the MLBPA has been looking at a WAR-based formula for multiple players who excel in their rookie seasons to receive service time. The league had been looking instead address the service-time manipulation issue by offering extra draft picks to teams who have players with top-three finishes in the ROY/MVP/Cy Young voting during their first three arbitration-eligible seasons.
If there is any other minor glimpse of good news from today’s meetings, one CBA issue has apparently been settled. The owners and players agreed to a new rule on minor league options, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that players can now be sent to the minor leagues a maximum of five times per season.
Unfortunately, progress has apparently been lost on the topic of a draft lottery. Reports from yesterday’s negotiating sessions indicated that the two sides were at least coming close to settling the exact number of teams involved in such a lottery, though the owners attempted to make a larger lottery (as per the MLBPA’s demands) contingent on the acceptance of a 14-team postseason. That same offer was floated by the league today and turned down by the players, who had previously expressed a willingness to expand the playoffs to 12 teams. Given the amount of extra revenue involved in extra postseason games, it isn’t surprising that the union isn’t willing to make such a major concession to the owners without tying it to an issue of greater import than the draft lottery.
Saturday’s sessions mark the sixth consecutive day of talks between the two sides, yet this increase in negotiations has yet to produce much in the way of concrete progress. MLB has stated that without a CBA in place by Monday, some regular-season games will have to be canceled, though the union has remained skeptical that the league truly sees February 28th as a firm deadline.
However, some Spring Training games have already been canceled, and it becomes increasingly unlikely that Opening Day will proceed as scheduled on March 31. If the hard feelings reportedly generated in today’s meetings actually do result in a breakdown in talks, it will only lead to more dismay and frustration among baseball fans who are more than ready for the lockout to be over.