Representatives from the players union and Major League Baseball’s owners will meet face to face in New York City next Monday, their first in-person meeting since Dec. 1 and just their second meeting since the owners locked out the players on Dec. 2.
One ominous backdrop to the meeting is a rapidly advancing calendar, one which is making an on-time start to spring training look implausible and an on-time start to the regular season in some doubt.
Last Thursday owners made proposals in areas players consider peripheral to more fundamental changes they are seeking.
That the owners did not address those concerns left the players more underwhelmed by the meeting than the actual proposals themselves. Since Thursday, the union has been studying those proposals, which dealt with salary arbitration and draft alterations, to determine if and how much they will make a dent in areas of concern the union has with competitive integrity and salary redistribution to younger players.
A response from the union to what was proposed and, just as likely, to what was not proposed can be expected to take place in the Manhattan conference room.
The last time the sides met was in Dallas on Dec. 1, when it took a little more than seven minutes for the owners to reiterate that they would not make any changes to revenue sharing (the players want to reduce it by $100 million), would not expand the pool of Super Two arbitration players or reduce the time it takes to reach free agency (the players want to reduce it from six to five years) and for the players to reiterate they should talk when those issues were ready to be addressed.
Camps are scheduled to open in mid-February, but given the existing gap in positions, an optimist for bridging those gaps by early February has yet to be heard from.
In order for the regular season to begin on time on March 31, a rough guideline for the minimum amount of time needed for pitchers to be stretched out and players to be tuned up in an abbreviated spring training is about four weeks.
With at least a week needed for visas to be applied for, for the bulk of the remaining free agents to be signed and for COVID-19 protocols to be passed, a deal would have to be reached before the final week of February in order to play ball on time.