As negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association continue, the league announced Friday that the first week of exhibition games will not be played.
“We regret that, without a collective bargaining agreement in place, we must postpone the start of Spring Training games until no earlier than Saturday, March 5,” the league said in a statement. “All 30 clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands.
“The clubs have adopted a uniform policy that provides an option for full refunds for fans who have purchased tickets from the clubs to any Spring Training games that are not taking place. We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side. On Monday, members of the owners’ bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard toward starting the season on time.”
The MLBPA made its latest proposal on Thursday, responding in just two core economic areas: Super 2 eligibility and the pre-arbitration bonus pool. The union lowered its ask regarding Super 2, proposing that the top 80% of players with two-plus years of service time become arbitration-eligible. MLB has been clear for months that expanding eligibility is a non-starter, but agrees with the goal of increasing pay for younger players.
The MLBPA had been asking for all two-year service-time players to be eligible for arbitration, though the 80% figure would still be a sizeable jump from the current system, which awards Super 2 eligibility to the 22% of two-plus players with the most service time.
Thursday’s proposal also included an increase in the MLBPA’s figure for a pre-arbitration bonus pool, from $100 million to $115 million. The union had initially proposed a $105 million pool, lowering that number to $100 million two weeks ago before raising it Thursday.
MLB has offered a $15 million pool, up from its initial $10 million offer. The concept for such a pool was initially the union’s, though the league came on board in an effort to satisfy the MLBPA’s desire to get top young players paid earlier in their careers.
MLB’s most recent proposal covering the entire CBA 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.
Meetings will resume Monday, with both players and owners expected to be in attendance. MLB has set Feb. 28 as the date by which a deal must be done to ensure that Opening Day will take place as scheduled on March 31.