Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association met on Thursday for their latest bargaining session, during which the union made a counterproposal in response to the league’s proposal that was made last Saturday.
The MLBPA altered two items in its core economic proposal, both involving players in the pre-arbitration service class.
The first involved expanding Super 2 eligibility to the top 80 percent of players with two-plus years of service time, a leap from the 22 percent in the current system. The MLBPA had been asking for 100 percent of the players with two years of service time to become arbitration-eligible, though the league has maintained all along that the issue is a non-starter.
In addition, the MLBPA raised its ask for a pre-arbitration bonus pool from $100 million to $115 million -- which is $10 million more than players initially asked for.
MLB’s most recent proposal included movement on a number of core economic issues, including minimum salary, the pre-arbitration bonus pool, the Competitive Balance Tax and service-time manipulation.
With Spring Training already delayed -- camps had been scheduled to open this week -- the calendar remains an issue as the two sides continue to try hammering out a new agreement in an effort to get players back on the field.
“We’re doing everything we can to get a deal done for our fans,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said last Thursday at the conclusion of the Owners’ Meetings. “You're always one breakthrough away from making an agreement. That's the art of this process.”
MLB’s current proposal included a pair of systems regarding minimum salary: one with a single minimum of $630,000 (which would not be capped, allowing clubs to give discretionary raises), the other with a tiered salary scale ($615,000/$650,000/$725,000) that would be fixed.
The $59,500 increase from 2021 to 2022 in the first plan would nearly match the increase ($63,000) over the five years of the entire prior CBA. In the latter, players would receive a 16% raise ($278,500) over their first three years of service under this plan -- and that’s not factoring in a pre-arbitration bonus pool.
MLB has offered a $15 million pre-arbitration bonus pool, which would include forming a Joint Committee with the MLBPA to develop a mutually agreeable WAR statistic to allocate the pool’s funds. Under this system, players such as Corbin Burnes, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jonathan India, Austin Riley and Randy Arozarena would have seen their salaries jump between 200-400 percent in 2021. On average, the top 30 pre-arbitration players would have increased their salaries by 74% under this proposal.
As for the CBT, MLB’s most recent offer included a $2 million bump in the threshold in 2024 ($216 million), 2025 ($218 million) and 2026 ($222 million). The offer also withdrew the proposal for clubs to forfeit Draft picks for passing the first threshold, with Draft-pick forfeiture limited to teams that exceed a $234 million payroll.
MLB’s proposal also eliminates recidivism, creating more year-to-year consistency in both team payrolls and competitive balance. Some teams in the past that have cut payroll in an effort to stay below the tax threshold in order to “reset” their penalty scale, have followed with massive spending sprees; ending recidivism would result in the restraint of runaway spending, which would help competitive balance.
“We have moved towards the players on key areas in an effort to address their concerns,” Manfred said last Thursday. “Under our proposal on the table, every single pre-arbitration player would be better off than under the previous agreement.”
Other issues being offered by MLB include an NBA-style Draft lottery, the universal designated hitter, increased Rule 4 Draft signing bonus values, a first-ever limit on the number of times a player can be optioned in a season (five), and improvements to the health benefits package. MLB is also seeking to expand the postseason to 14 teams, while the MLBPA has only offered a 12-team format.
Prior to this negotiation, MLB was already the only major North American sport without a salary cap, with guaranteed contracts worth $300 million and no limits on the length of contracts players can sign.
The current deal being offered by MLB includes a number of concessions that would benefit players in every service category. For draftees, the signing bonus pool would be increased more than $20 million per year, while pre-arbitration players would gain more than $200 million in additional compensation over the term of the agreement.
Prior to Thursday, the MLBPA had not moved from its November proposal on any of the core issues including minimum salaries, Super 2 eligibility, the competitive balance tax threshold, and the size of both a Draft lottery and an expanded postseason. Thursday marked a slight move in Super 2 eligibility, though one unlikely to move the sides toward a new agreement.
The MLBPA’s latest proposal did not move on the Competitive Balance Tax, service-time manipulation, minimum salaries, Draft pick compensation, or the Draft lottery.
The regular season is scheduled to begin on March 31.