CBA talks continue between players, owners

Negotiations continue with deadline looming

November 30th, 2016

IRVING, Texas -- Major League Baseball's players and owners worked late into the night on Tuesday to try to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as a 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday deadline -- which marks the expiration of the current CBA -- loomed.

Both sides said they were optimistic a deal could be reached even though several significant issues remain unresolved.

Among them:

• Luxury-tax threshold

• Draft-pick compensation tied to the signing of free agents

• A proposed international draft

• Roster sizes and days off

• Changes in the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program

• Pace-of-play initiatives

Unlike previous negotiations, when an agreement often hinged on one or two large issues, this one is about a myriad of cumulatively important but one by one less daunting ones.

While not one of the issues appears to be a deal breaker, enough of them remain on the table that Tuesday's discussions did not result in a significant breakthrough, according to sources. However, there was enough progress that both sides seem to have faith in a deal getting done.

Owners offered to back off their proposal for an international draft -- which was seen as a key issue -- in an effort to jump-start negotiations, but that has not happened as of yet.

Around 50 players were present for the MLBPA meetings, which began Sunday and became a conduit to intensify negotiations. Several Latin American players were in attendance to voice their opposition to an international draft. Owners were represented by chief negotiator Dan Halem and his team as well as owners Ron Fowler of the Padres and Bill DeWitt Jr. of the Cardinals.

Baseball has had 21 years of labor peace since the 1994 players' strike. Since a marathon negotiating session avoided a work stoppage in August 2002, players and owners quietly agreed to new deals in 2007 and '12.

This labor peace has resulted in a period of dramatic growth, with revenues soaring from $1.2 billion in 1995 to almost $10 billion in 2016. Players have benefited, with the average salaries soaring from $1 million to $4.4 million and minimum salaries also rising ($109,000 to $507,500).

Baseball's total attendance, which was 50.5 million in 1995, was just over 73 million in 2016.

But that peace could be interrupted if the players and owners do not reach an agreement by the time the current deal expires.

At that point, owners have the option of locking out the players, which would put free-agent signings and trades on hold. Another option, if talks reach an advanced and mutually encouraging state, presumably would be a short-term agreement to extend the existing agreement for the purpose of dotting i's and crossing t's.

The luxury-tax threshold on player payroll was one of the issues discussed extensively on Tuesday. It was $189 million in 2016, with teams exceeding it paying a tax ranging from 17.5 percent to 50 percent, depending on how many consecutive seasons they had been over the threshold.

Owners have expressed a willingness to negotiate their desire for Draft-pick compensation for the signing of free agents and an international draft.

Other issues include a possible expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 players in exchange for placing limits on September roster expansion, and adjusting game times so players won't have to fly all night to play too soon after landing.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has advocated an array of options to speed up the pace of play, including using a 20-second pitch clock that has drawn positive reviews by many in the Minor Leagues.

But those things, while not trivial, are not characterized by either side comparatively as grounds for a work stoppage.

Economic progress that impacts players up and down the roster is what could widen the path to a settlement. The deal expiration deadline, fast approaching, typically does its part to command focus on substantive good-faith urgency and breakthroughs.

Meanwhile, business such as the Mets' blockbuster signing of continued Tuesday. But with eyes toward, the wee hours of Thursday morning, it's hardly business as usual overall.