2:45pm: MLB’s offer to the union, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link), includes a $30MM pre-arbitration bonus pool with no yearly increases, a $700K minimum salary with $10K annual increases, and no changes to prior luxury-tax thresholds ($220MM from 2022-24, $224MM in 2025, $230MM in 2026). That leaves a $55MM gap between the union’s proposed bonus pool (which also includes yearly $5MM increases) and a $25K gap in minimum salary. As for the luxury-tax thresholds, the two sides still face an $18MM gap in 2022 proposals, which grows to a $33MM gap by their proposed 2026 terms.
2:10pm: Major League Baseball is preparing to extend its best and final offer to the Players Association before today’s self-imposed 5:00pm EST deadline, a league spokesperson announced to several reporters (Twitter thread via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald). The league official indicated MLB believed there to be a “path to a deal” late last night and agreed to extend its deadline while awaiting a counteroffer regarding the luxury tax.
The league contends that the union’s “tone” has changed today, whereas MLBPA officials have told reporters that their tone has remained consistent (Twitter link via Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser). The union’s message throughout the day has been that, for all the optimism MLB tried to express last night, a good bit of work remained in many key areas. Giants pitcher Alex Wood, who’s been involved on the players’ end throughout the process, adamantly states that the union has “had the same tone all along.” Wood contends, via Twitter, that last night’s optimism from the league was deliberately feigned in an effort to cast blame upon the player’s side if and when talks ultimately failed to produce a deal. Mets catcher James McCann tweets a similar message, accusing MLB of trying to “control the narrative.”
The MLBPA continues to broadcast a desire to negotiate — even beyond the 5pm deadline the league has set — but the league is now once again drawing a hardline status and implying a take-it-or-leave it style offer will soon be made. The league characterizes the forthcoming offer as “fair for both players and clubs.” Based on the manner in which past negotiations have transpired, it’s hard to imagine the union will view things similarly.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that one dispute still, unsurprisingly, centers around the luxury-tax thresholds. MLB’s latest offer reportedly set a $220MM luxury-tax barrier for the next three seasons before climbing to $224MM in 2025 and to $230MM in 2026. The union, meanwhile, proposed first-level thresholds of $238MM in 2022, $244MM in 2023, $250MM in 2024, $256MM in 2025 and $263MM in 2026. Both offers represent slight movement from the parties’ original proposals, but it’s still a large bridge to cross.
Meanwhile, Evan Drellich of The Athletic tweets that the MLBPA dropped its ask on the pre-arbitration bonus pool from $115MM to $85MM — effectively asking each team to contribute $2.83MM rather than the prior ask of $3.83MM. That pool, per Drellich, would increase by $5MM annually over the life of the collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, the league remains set at $25MM — roughly $833K per team.
As for the minimum salary, Drellich further tweets that the union has dropped its ask to $725K, with yearly increases of $20K throughout the CBA. The league is offering $675K and an annual increase of $10K, as was reported yesterday.
Public relations tactics like the ones characterized by Wood have been employed throughout these negotiations (and not solely by MLB), but there’s a large portion of the MLB fanbase that cares very little about which side is to “blame.” The broader takeaway from the entire situation is that the scheduled March 31 season opener remains very much in jeopardy. Commissioner Rob Manfred has previously called missing regular-season games a “disastrous outcome” while touting his own track record of labor peace, but that disaster feels closer than at any point to date.
To reiterate, today’s “deadline” is only seen by one of the two parties (the league) as a hard stopping point in talks. It would teeter on impossible to facilitate the optimal four-week Spring Training that Manfred mentioned as a target in mid-February, but if the two sides were to continue talking in the coming days, there’s no reason a deal that at least preserves a March 31 or an early-April start to the season couldn’t be salvaged. For now, MLB is drawing a firm line in the sand in hoping that the players accept an offer that, with just 80 minutes until the purported “deadline,” has yet to even be presented to the union.