In a two-hour face-to-face meeting with management that grew contentious at times on Monday, MLB players made two proposals that move in the direction owners want on core economic principles while also rejecting recent proposals from the owners, according to a source from each camp familiar with the talks.
The two concessions — the players essentially ended their effort to reduce the time it takes to reach free agency from six to five years, and pulled back 70 percent on their revenue sharing reduction request — signaled a modest measure of movement toward ending the lockout imposed by the owners on Dec. 2.
Striking a deal remains on the far horizon, as significant gaps in financial issues remain.
The possibility of a late start and abbreviated schedule for both spring training and the regular season still remains in play.
Two other factors made the day a net gain: The sides stayed in the same room to negotiate far longer than the seven minutes they lasted in their last try on Dec. 2, and are scheduled to meet again in New York City on Tuesday.
Neither side viewed the heated dialogue to be anything other than the standard byproduct of labor negotiation. Both sides also conceded that meeting in person and being able to speak freely and candidly, even when coming from two still mostly entrenched positions, was a positive development, same as the agreement to continue the dialogue the following day.
In their Zoom session on Jan. 13, the owners reiterated to the players three areas in which they will not concede: reducing the time it takes to reach free agency, any request to reduce revenue sharing and any attempt to expand the pool of second-year players eligible for arbitration.
The last topic was pointedly not included in Monday’s talks during which the players’ union rejected the three proposals made by the owners in the last meeting. Also not brought up by the owners were increases in the minimum salary and increases in the lowest threshold of the competitive balance tax, two areas the players remain keen on seeing movement from the owners.
Those proposals concerned alterations to the second-year arbitration pool, and amateur draft tweaks meant to reduce service time manipulation and competitive balance concerns from players over how the draft set-up rewards teams who lose.
The players viewed the owners’ proposals as too narrow and conservative.
In Monday’s meeting, the players dropped their request to allow older players who reach the age of 29½ to become free agents after only five years. And, they dropped their initial ask of a $100 million reduction in revenue sharing to $30 million.
The MLB contingent was composed of MLB lead negotiator and deputy commissioner Dan Halem, Rockies owner Dick Monfort, the chairman of the owners’ labor policy committee and vice presidents Patrick Houlihan and Morgan Sword.