A set of new proposals from Major League Baseball owners delivered via Zoom Thursday left the approximately 25 players on the call initially underwhelmed, the type of feedback which only increases the likelihood of a delayed start to spring training in a little more than a month, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
Neither side was expecting a mid-January breakthrough when there had been no talks at all about core economic issues in a 42-day span that began Dec. 2 when Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a lockout that ended a 26-year run of labor peace without a work stoppage.
A date for the next round of talks has not been set, although by next week scheduling attempts are expected to begin.
First, the players want to pore over the details of what were, broadly speaking, three separate proposals that owners made to address many but not all of the key issues players and MLBPA officials have spoken about since CBA renewal talks began two years ago.
Thursday’s proposals did not encompass every item on the wish list of the players, which in the players’ eyes was part of their disappointment while MLB viewed its proposals as direct responses to some of those stated concerns and meant to generate momentum in talks.
MLB has told the union that the owners will not come to consensus on any changes that decrease free agency eligibility from six to five years, decrease revenue sharing or expand the arbitration eligibility of “Super Two” players.
One new proposal from the owners was to completely eliminate salary arbitration for “Super Two” players — the highest performing tier of players with two years of experience — and replace it with a statistics-based system for all two-year players.
The players will explore the financial outcomes of such a system to discover if it represents a net loss or gain for their two-year players. MLB maintains there will be a net gain.
On the competitive integrity front, the owners introduced a three-year limit on how many consecutive years a team could qualify for a new lottery for the top picks of the draft, the idea being that teams could not “tank” on a forever basis in order to rebuild.
MLB still wants only three teams involved in the lottery, while the MLBPA would like to increase the number to eight.
And on the service time manipulation front, the owners proposed extra first-round draft picks for teams whose top prospects win end-of-season major-league awards like Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP, the thinking being teams will be incentivized to play their best young players from the start of the season rather than wait a few weeks when service time rules buy the team an extra year before free agency.
MLB did not make changes to its earlier proposed minimum salary increases from the current $570,500 level. The owners have proposed a $600,000 minimum salary for players with less than one year of service, $650,000 for one-plus players and $700,000 for two-plus players.
The players want the minimum salary to begin at $775,000.
MLB did not make changes to its competitive balance tax threshold increases from the current $210 million top threshold figure. MLB’s proposed raise begins at $214 million, while the players want the threshold to top out at $245 million.
MLB did not make changes to its expanded playoffs proposal with a 14-team format.
The players want a 12-team format that features as many total games as MLB’s version. The players’ thinking is that too many teams in the playoffs dilutes competition by reducing incentives to win so that teams will not upgrade their rosters as readily.
The universal DH has already been proposed by MLB, as has ending qualifying offers and eliminating direct draft pick compensation.
For spring training to begin on time in mid-February, a deal would have to be struck by early February.
For the regular season, scheduled to begin on March 31, to start in time, a deal would need to be reached by early March, which would allow three to four weeks of an abbreviated spring training schedule.