Tuesday’s deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement passed without a deal between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, as the players voted to reject the league’s final proposal before 5 p.m. ET.
With no deal in place, MLB announced that each team’s first two series of the regular season will not be played, meaning that the regular season will begin no earlier than April 7, while Spring Training games will begin no earlier than March 12.
MLB extended Monday night’s deadline until Tuesday at 5 p.m., believing enough progress had been made during Monday’s 16-hour bargaining marathon that a deal could be consummated the next day.
“We worked hard to avoid an outcome that is bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred while speaking to the assembled media in Jupiter, Fla., where the negotiations were taking place. “I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort on the part of either party.”
MLB made what it called its “best offer” before the deadline, though the MLBPA rejected it, prompting the league to take the first week’s worth of games off the schedule.
“The clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible,” said Manfred. “To that end, we want to bargain and we want a deal with the Players Association as quickly as possible."
In February, Manfred said that based on injury data and the experience of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, Spring Training should be at least four weeks long in order for players to properly prepare for the season. Without a deal on Tuesday, that means starting the season later than the scheduled March 31 Opening Day.
MLB’s final offer would have meant nearly $500 million in additional compensation for pre-arbitration players through a 23% increase in minimum salary and a $30 million pre-arbitration bonus pool. It would have also increased the competitive balance tax threshold to $220 million, a jump from $214 million in 2021. The MLBPA was reportedly seeking an $85 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players and a competitive balance tax threshold starting at $238 million.
Among the proposals in MLB’s last offer were:
- A $700,000 minimum salary, escalating $10,000 in each year of the deal. That would represent a $129,500 increase from the 2021 minimum salary, the largest single-year increase in the sport’s history.
- The $129,500 increase is nearly five times the $27,500 increase in the first year of the previous CBA, when the minimum salary went from $507,500 to $535,000.
- The $129,500 increase would also be larger than the aggregate increase in the minimum salary over the last 10 years, when it increased from $480,000 in 2012 to $570,500 in 2021.
- Minimum salary would not be fixed, so clubs and players would have the ability to agree to a higher amount, as they could in the previous CBA.
Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool
- MLB agreed to the union’s proposal to create a centrally funded pre-arbitration bonus pool to reward top-performing pre-arbitration players, and offered a pool of $30 million..
- MLB agreed to expand the number of eligible players to 150 pre-arbitration players.
- On average, the top 30 pre-arbitration players would increase their salaries by 79% under the pool, while 150 total players would receive bonuses for awards and performance.
- MLB proposed forming a Joint Committee (three MLB representatives and three MLBPA representatives) to develop a mutually agreeable WAR statistic to allocate the funds.
Service Time Management
- Players finishing first and second in Rookie of the Year voting would receive a full year of service time regardless of days spent in the Majors. Under this plan, Kris Bryant would have received a full year of service time in 2015.
- Teams could receive selections after the first round of the Rule 4 and International Drafts for promoting top prospects to the Opening Day Rosters (Rule 4 selection for Rookie of the Year win and Top 3 in MVP and Cy Young; International selection for Rookie of the Year 2nd/3rd and Top 5 MVP / Cy Young).
Competitive Balance Tax
- 2022-24: $220 million
- 2025: $224 million
- 2026: $230 million
- No changes in tax rates or non-monetary penalties for exceeding thresholds.
Draft Pick Compensation
- MLB offered to eliminate direct Draft pick compensation (the qualifying offer system) for all free agents.
- Top five selections chosen by NBA-style lottery (the NBA awards top four selections, the NHL awards top two selections via lottery)
- Equal odds for bottom three record (16.5%). Revenue-sharing payees ineligible to be in lottery 3 straight years; non-payees ineligible in consecutive years. Ineligible teams can't pick higher than 8th overall.
- Proposed increases in the Rule 4 Signing Bonus Values and the International Draft Slots would result in more than $23 million in additional spending on amateur players each year compared to 2019.
- The International Draft would increase spending on international amateur players and maintain the number of players signed, while addressing corruption in multiple ways (including eliminating early deals and introducing mandatory drug testing).
- “Kumar Rocker Rule”: Top-300 players who submit to a pre-draft physical must be offered at least 75% of the Slot Value associated with that selection (currently clubs are not required to make an offer to a player post-Draft)
- Playing Rules: MLB proposed the formation of a joint Competition Committee comprised of active players, individuals selected by the Office of the Commissioner and an umpire, which would be responsible for recommending and adopting changes to playing and scoring rules (Pitch Timer, Automated Ball-Strike, shift restrictions, and bigger bases).
- Universal Designated Hitter: Creation of 15 jobs that traditionally go to veteran players who are limited defensively. The average salary for a primary DH in the American League in 2021 was $9.2 million, suggesting the change could add $130 million in player salaries.
- Option Limit: Limit of five times per season that a player can be optioned to the Minors.
- Expanded Postseason: 12 teams in each league, with the top two Division winners in each league receiving a bye. Postseason Players Pool would be increased by approximately $15 million from additional games, while 50 additional players would receive Postseason shares each year.