JUPITER, Fla. — The second day in a row of extended face-to-face negotiations between players and owners brought a second day of not much at all to show for it.
Tuesday was the league’s day to say it thought little of what it saw in the players’ proposals, claiming they moved the goalposts by asking for increases to earlier minimum-salary proposals.
As a demonstration of its disappointment, the league asked the players for the second time to OK bringing in a mediator to help the sides come to an agreement.
For the second time, the players swatted away the suggestion.
The sides will resume Wednesday at 1 p.m., with the owners saying they will be making some type of proposal.
The sides are six days away from the Feb. 28 deadline that MLB, which locked out the players Dec. 2, has set as the last day for an agreement to be reached on a collective bargaining agreement. If there is no CBA by then, MLB can be expected to push back the March 31 start to the regular season, a move which will make very real the possibility that the 162-game season could be shortened.
At the rate the talks have moved in the first two days here, the Feb. 28 deadline will pass.
According to sources, the union’s proposals Tuesday addressed three areas: the draft lottery system, the pre-arbitration pool, and Super Twos (i.e. players who can become eligible for arbitration before reaching three years of service time).
The proposals were set forth that the union felt was commensurate — meaning tiny in this case — to what the owners proposed Monday.
On getting more Super Two players arbitration eligible, the players moved toward the owners by moving to 75 percent eligibility (from 80 percent).
The union went from having eight players to seven players eligible in the new draft lottery system. On Monday, the owners moved from three to four eligible players.
With a middle ground to be found at five or six, suffice it to say that while this issue could be resolved soon given the spread, the next CBA will not come down to the sides being unable to find a middle ground on the number of players in the draft lottery.
What displeased the owners so much Tuesday is that the players went upward in their asks on minimum salary. Instead of asking for the salary to increase by $25,000 each year from the $775,000 starting point in Year 1, the union now wants the number to go up by $30,000.
While that is unequivocally an increase, the union’s economic calculation is based on the giveback it made with going from 80 percent to 75 percent on Super Two eligibility. That reduction in big salary increases would surpass, the union maintains, the increases owners would have to pay with the new minimum-salary raises.
In the view of the owners, the minimum-salary proposal marked the third bargaining session in a row in which the players have asked for more than they had previously. Again, players see each ask as attached to another giveback and thus is not a backward step.
Such vastly differing perspectives on what each side is doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing has been a recurring theme leading up to the Dec. 2 lockout and ever since.
Except for a general discussion, the competitive balance threshold tax (CBT) has not been discussed here. The owners have come up $4 million, from $210 million to $214 million, with the players not moving downward since the fall, when they went from $248 million to $245 million.
The league sees the CBT as something to be addressed after other core economic issues are resolved, a position that has not motivated the union to lower its ask any time soon.
The league asked for federal mediation intervention at the beginning of the month in talks in New York. There, the players rejected the idea, saying they wanted to engage in direct negotiations. That stance was reiterated Tuesday, another day where direct negotiations led nowhere.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.