After Major League Baseball owners made concessions in some areas but did not bring up other key economic concerns in a meeting Tuesday, the overall response from the players was one of disappointment, according to sources on the players’ side.
And while the owners, according to an MLB official, believe that they took significant steps toward forging a path to a new deal with the proposals, the players’ wholly different point of view only increases the chances of the owner-imposed lockout extending through the scheduled start of spring training in three weeks.
Unless and until real progress can be made, the shrinking calendar also raises the prospect that regular-season games will have to be sacrificed.
Tuesday’s meeting at Players Association headquarters in midtown Manhattan lasted an hour, one hour shorter than Monday’s meeting. Approximately 25-30 players listened in via Zoom on the meeting between four MLB negotiators and the MLBPA’s negotiating team.
And while Tuesday’s meeting was said to be less contentious than Monday’s, the tepid response from the players affirmed the macro view of negotiations as the sides inching closer but remaining miles apart.
It is the players who are seeking the biggest changes in the next collective bargaining agreement, with the owners generally content with the status quo outside of wanting the players to agree to expanded playoffs.
The sides agreed to meet again as soon as this week to hammer out agreements on more than a dozen noncontentious issues such as transaction details, All-Star Games, and international play.
The union will examine the proposals made by the owners over the next several days before scheduling the next core-economic bargaining session.
The owners increased their earlier proposal for a higher minimum salary by $15,000, from $600,000 to $615,000, for first-year players. The players are seeking a $750,000 entry-level salary. Last season, the minimum salary was $575,500. The $15,000 raise came with a new provision that clubs could not raise that salary if they wanted to, unless they could hammer out an extension for the player.
Owners maintain that their minimum-salary increase marks a historic high, while the union sees the $615,000 figure as barely keeping up with inflation.
The owners withdrew their proposal to eliminate arbitration for some second-year players, a move that in their view marked a significant concession.
The owners agreed to the players’ framework for a pool of bonus money for the top 30 pre-arbitration players, using WAR as the basis to determine those bonus amounts. The owners proposed a $10 million bonus pool, $95 million less than the bonus pool proposed by the players.
The owners did not make a new proposal to increase the competitive-balance tax threshold, and they also did not address revenue sharing, an issue that they are believed to be unanimously in favor of not changing at all.
On Monday, the players reduced the amount of revenue-sharing cutbacks they are seeking by 70 percent, from $100 million to $30 million. The total amount of revenue shared annually among teams is believed to be in excess of $400 million. The money flows from big-market teams to small-market teams, the intent being for those teams to use the dollars to beef up their on-field performance.
In these talks, the union has not asked for the language concerning revenue sharing to be sharpened to ensure that the money is used for salaries, but it does have ongoing grievances against three teams for not using the dollars as intended.
The players have agreed to expanded playoffs, but for competitive-integrity reasons, they would like to limit the number of teams to 12, two more than the current number and two fewer than the 14-team format the owners are seeking.