11:46 pm: Nicholson-Smith reiterates that the international draft has become a key sticking point (Twitter links). He hears that the league considers it a crucial feature of any agreement but the union still has concerns about its inclusion in a deal.
11:26 pm: Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that the league has indeed received the MLBPA’s counterproposal and is currently reviewing it.
11:20 pm: Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets that both the league and union are meeting amongst themselves at the moment. The plan is to continue negotiations even though MLB’s imposed midnight deadline has passed on the East Coast. It’s not known whether the union has yet officially made its counteroffer.
10:14 pm: Nicholson-Smith hears that the union has discussed the possibility of lowering its demand on the pre-arb bonus pool to $70MM this season, followed by $5MM raises annually. That’d still be a rather significant gap above the league’s proposed flat $40MM mark, although it’d be down $10MM — the same amount of MLB’s most recent move — from its last offer.
10:10 pm: Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet report (Twitter links) that some players are “encouraged” by the league’s movement on core economics. However, the union has expressed concern about the possibility of an international draft, which would inherently involve those players no longer getting a choice of their first employer. That’s been of particular concern to some Latin American players, according to Sportsnet.
Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reports that the union will soon send back a counteroffer, with multiple reports indicating tonight’s discussions could carry over into the early morning hours. Nicholson-Smith describes the international draft/qualifying offer as the biggest obstacle, hearing that the sides are “close” on the numbers for things like the CBT and pre-arb bonus pool (Twitter links).
9:35 pm: Sawchik adds that the “gap has closed” today, but he cautions there are “still issues to work through.” Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe tweets that some on the players’ side don’t believe a deal is close to being finalized. The union is still reviewing the terms of the league’s offer.
9:17 pm: MLB’s proposal contained a 12-team postseason field, reports Travis Sawchik of the Score (on Twitter). The union was only amenable to a 14-team playoff that would’ve introduced the “ghost win” for division winners, according to Sawchik, an idea that proved a non-starter for the league.
8:44 pm: Drellich and Ken Rosenthal report that the league has proposed a bonus pool that would hold flat at $40MM each season throughout the terms of the CBA. That’d involve a $1.33MM annual payment from each of the league’s 30 teams, which would be counted against every club’s luxury tax calculations. The Athletic also reports the year-over-year breakdown the league is offering on both the base tax threshold and the league minimum salary (annual CBT and minimums, respectively):
2022: $230MM, $700K
2023: $232MM, $715K
2024: $236MM, $730K
2025: $240MM, $750K
2026: $242MM, $770K
Additionally, Drellich and Rosenthal report a pair of the important conditions the league has attached to its most recent proposal (Twitter links). Most notably, MLB is hoping to introduce a fourth level of penalization to the luxury tax thresholds. Under the last CBA, there was a base tax threshold (set at $210MM in 2021) followed by levels of surcharge taxes for clubs that a) exceeded the tax by between $20MM and $40MM and for b) clubs that exceeded the tax by more than $40MM, with clubs greater penalties for reaching each tier. The league’s latest proposal would add a third surcharge level for teams that go more than $60MM above the base tax marker (with presumably even more penalties) in an obvious effort to curtail teams from blowing by the thresholds, as the Dodgers did last year and as many believe the Mets are prepared to do in 2022.
Additionally, MLB is tying the introduction of an international draft to the elimination of the qualifying offer. Removing draft pick compensation for signing free agents has been a goal of the union’s throughout the process. Drellich hears that MLB is also pursuing expedited authority for all rules changes, which would only be made over an offseason.
The Athletic reports a few more minor provisions of the league’s last offer. MLB is willing to make the first six picks of the domestic amateur draft determined by lottery — it had previously been at five — with limits on how many consecutive seasons a club could be eligible based on market size. The league’s proposal would also include a limit on the number of times a player can be optioned to the minors within a season (five), would grant a full year of service time to the top two finishers in Rookie of the Year voting and would award teams additional draft picks for carrying high-performing players on their Opening Day rosters.
7:57 pm: Yesterday, Major League Baseball set tonight as its latest deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement to preserve a 162-game schedule. The league and Players Association have been meeting throughout the day. The tenor and specifics of those conversations has been kept relatively quiet, although some details have begun to trickle out.
Most notably, Evan Drellich and Andy McCullough of the Athletic report (on Twitter) that the league has offered a small bump on the competitive balance tax. The league is now offering to set the base CBT threshold at $230MM in 2022 and would see that figure rise to $242MM by the end of a five-year CBA. That’s up $2MM in Year One and $4MM by 2026 relative to the league’s offer yesterday. Whether the union has moved on the tax today isn’t clear; previously, the MLBPA had sought a $238MM figure for the upcoming season that would rise as high as $263MM by the end of the CBA term.
That would appear to be a minor move in the players’ favor on the surface, although Drellich cautions the rest of the league’s offer is unclear. Yesterday’s proposal of a $228MM base tax marker was said to come with “major strings attached,” and The Athletic reports today that MLB’s offer contains “other issues players are concerned with.”
Without knowing the full terms of the league’s offer, it’s impossible to hypothesize whether the sides are making progress towards any sort of agreement. In addition to the CBT, prominent topics of discussion include the expanded playoff field, the extent of a bonus pool to award excellent pre-arbitration players, and the league’s desire to institute a draft for international amateurs. MLB has also pushed to expedite the process by which it could implement on-field rules changes.
The union agreed last week to give the league authority to more quickly implement a few specific changes — namely a restriction on defensive shifts, larger bases and a pitch clock. However, MLB is seeking broad autonomy to unilaterally implement any on-field rules alteration within 45 days of informing the union. Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports tweeted this afternoon that expedited window was among the conditions attached to the league’s willingness to move the luxury tax upwards (although it’s unlikely to be the only tradeoff).
Dorsey also adds that the league may be targeting some form of “penalty for excessive spending.” What form that would take isn’t clear, although the union adamantly pushed back against the league’s push earlier in negotiations for stricter penalties for teams that exceeded the luxury tax. MLB agreed to take those off the table, but it’s possible the league is hoping to reintroduce something to that effect in exchange for an increase in the thresholds themselves.
Regarding the bonus pool, there was an immediate $50MM gap at last check. MLB had offered to allocate $30MM annually to that system throughout the term of an agreement. The union sought $80MM for that pool in 2022 and wanted that figure to rise by a few million dollars each year thereafter. Dorsey hears the league could be willing to go to $50MM on the bonus pool but is tying that to the union signing off on a 14-team postseason. The MLBPA has expressed amenability to a 14-team playoff but would prefer a 12-team system, and it’s not clear MLB moving from $30MM to $50MM on the bonus pool would be a sufficient enough incentive in the union’s eyes.
The parties continue to discuss these issues in an attempt to close the gap tonight. The league has already canceled the first two series of the regular season. It indicated those games could be made up in the event of an agreement today, but MLB has suggested another week’s worth of games would be scrapped if the parties don’t come to terms in the coming hours.