March 8: SNY’s Andy Martino tweets that MLB’s most recent proposal does not include any movement on the pre-arbitration bonus pool. The league is still offering a flat $30MM pool with no increases over the five-year term of the agreement. The MLBPA had lowered its ask from a $115MM peak to $80MM at last check, though the union was also believed to be seeking annual increases to the size of the pool.
March 7, 10:52 pm: Jeff Passan of ESPN writes that if an agreement were to come together Tuesday, Spring Training camps could open as soon as Friday. However, he cautions that the gaps between the two sides remain significant enough to “temper expectations” about a deal coming to fruition.
8:50 pm: MLB offered to raise the base luxury tax threshold to $228MM next season, with that figure rising to $238MM over the course of the CBA, Drellich reports. That’s a fairly notable jump over MLB’s previous offers to start that mark at $220MM and rise to $230MM by 2026, and it’d be an $18MM year-over-year jump from last season’s $210MM mark.
However, Drellich cautions that the league’s offer to move on the CBT came with “major strings attached.” Those conditions aren’t clear, although MLB has sought a 14-team playoff field and a draft for international amateurs in past proposals and could again be trying to get the MLBPA’s approval on either or both topics. The union has been seeking to increase the CBT to $238MM next season and move to $263MM by the end of the CBA.
8:29 pm: After yesterday’s proposal from the MLB Players Association to the league was met with hostility, lead negotiators reconvened today, reports Evan Drellich of the Athletic (Twitter link). They’re expected to meet again Tuesday, and MLB has suggested those discussions could be of particular importance.
Drellich reports that the league views tomorrow as the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement to be in place to conduct a 162-game season (and with it, a full year of salary and service time for players). He and colleague Ken Rosenthal add that the league has informed the union it expects to cancel another week’s worth of games if no deal is done. Commissioner Rob Manfred already announced the cancelation of the first two series of the regular season last week, and the league had previously been adamant those games would not be made up. It now seems MLB is willing to entertain that possibility, although only if a new CBA is finalized on Tuesday.
This marks at least the second (arguably the third) time the league has imposed a deadline for an agreement to avoid the loss of regular season games. MLB had previously set February 28 at 11:59 pm EST as a marker to avoid delays to Opening Day. With the parties beginning to close the gap in negotiations that evening, the league pushed back that deadline to March 1 at 5:00 pm EST. Ultimately, no agreement was reached — the league claimed the union upped its demands overnight, while the MLBPA accused the league of exaggerating the previous night’s progress in the first place — and Manfred announced the cancelation of the first two series that evening.
The union expressed its displeasure with that decision. MLB had unilaterally instituted the lockout and set the end of February deadline for an agreement, while the MLBPA maintained that further negotiations should proceed without game cancelations. It’s not clear whether the union views tomorrow’s league-imposed deadline in the same manner. We’re a bit more than three weeks from the originally scheduled Opening Day, March 31. It seems likely that with those first two series already canceled, the path to 162 games would involve reworking the schedule and/or instituting doubleheaders rather than simply putting those games back on the docket.
Even if the lockout lingers to a point where everyone agrees a 162-game season is unfeasible, it stands to reason the union would embark on some efforts to recoup pay and service time lost. MLB instituted the lockout, after all, and their initial game cancelations were imposed over the objections of the union. MLBPA lead negotiator Bruce Meyer stated in the immediate aftermath of Manfred’s announcement it was the union’s position that players should receive compensation for games lost. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted last week, a battle regarding service time could be even more important than any dispute over pay.
Whether the parties will be able to come to an agreement tomorrow remains to be seen, but the recent tenor hasn’t been promising. There’s still a sizable gap on issues such as the competitive balance tax and the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. Rosenthal wrote yesterday the league is willing to move in the players’ favor on the CBT in exchange for concessions by the union in other areas, but MLB’s other demands aren’t clear.
The league presented a formal counterproposal to the PA’s most recent offer at today’s call, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). According to Nightengale, that “(included) flexibility on several issues,” but it doesn’t seem the union viewed it that favorably. One player involved in discussions tells Rosenthal the offer remained too tilted towards MLB’s interests, while another said he was “done getting (his) hopes up” for an agreement.