The sixth consecutive day of bargaining talks between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association produced little momentum, leaving just two days for a deal to get done if the regular season is to open on March 31 as scheduled.
MLB tried to address the players’ concerns about both alleged tanking and service-time manipulation, offering historic changes in both areas.
The league offered a Draft lottery that would award the top six selections – two more than any other league in sports – and agreed to implement part of the MLBPA’s plan to fight service time manipulation in addition to its own.
The league agreed to award a full year of service time to any player who places first or second in their league’s Rookie of the Year voting. This would encourage teams to promote top prospects as early as possible knowing they would get a full year of service time no matter what if they perform to their potential.
In exchange for the draft lottery and service time proposals, MLB had asked for a 14-team expanded postseason (the union is still offering 12), as well as the ability to make on-field rules changes with 45 days’ notice rather than the current system, which requires either union consent or one full year of notice. Those rules changes would be handled by a committee comprised of six management officials, two MLBPA reps and one umpire.
“We addressed the service time issue by combining their proposal with ours, a six-team Draft lottery to address tanking, and limiting the number of options to five in return for flexibility on rule changes to improve the product on the field and expanding the playoffs,” a league source said. “This is a package that would address their concerns about competitiveness they have been very vocal about for years while addressing our concerns about the product on the field.”
Earlier in the day, the MLBPA submitted a proposal in a number of areas, and while the numbers appear to be a sign of progress, they remain non-starters for the owners.
The union lowered its ask for Super 2 eligibility from the top 75 percent of players with two-plus years of service time to 35 percent, but MLB has maintained from the beginning that any change to the current system -- which makes the top 22 percent of such players eligible for arbitration -- will not happen.
The same goes for any changes to revenue sharing; the players withdrew their proposal to cut revenue sharing by $30 million a year, but they still want tweaks to the system that owners have said are not negotiable.
“If they are not going to get off the Super 2 issue or the revenue sharing issue we aren’t going to get something done,” a league source said. “It’s not more complicated than that.”
Saturday’s proposals from the MLBPA didn’t include any moves on either minimum salaries or a pre-arbitration bonus pool, two issues the union raised its asks for in its most recent proposals.
Unlike Super 2 eligibility and revenue sharing, the minimum salary and pre-arbitration bonus pools are issues MLB has been willing to move on, so it was somewhat surprising that the PA didn’t try to adjust those proposals.
The MLBPA also countered with a new proposal on the competitive balance tax, making a minor tweak that would lower its proposed thresholds by $2 million each in 2023 and ’24. The thresholds in the first year and last year of the players’ proposal remained unchanged.
MLB countered by offering to boost the CBT threshold from $214 million to $215 million in 2023, also making minor adjustments in their proposed tax rates.
“They made a bad CBT proposal and we responded in kind,” a league source said.
Players have insisted from the start of negotiations that getting younger players paid more earlier in their careers is one of the union’s primary objectives. Between the league’s proposals for minimum salary increases and a pre-arbitration bonus pool, MLB has offered more than $250 million in additional compensation for pre-arbitration players over the course of a five-year agreement.
The two sides met Sunday afternoon in Jupiter, Fla., their seventh consecutive day of bargaining.
MLB has instituted a Monday deadline for a deal in order for the regular season to open as scheduled on March 31, leaving the league and the players union two more days to work out a deal.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Rob 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.