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The MLB labor talks collapsed, then resumed, and now there is reason for hope on a key issue

Rob Manfred cancelled a second series of games Wednesday., but later in the evening, there appeared to be a flicker of hope the two sides could still reach a deal that could end in a 162-game season.Julio Aguilar/Photographer: Julio Aguilar/Gett

NEW YORK — After talks between MLB players and owners collapsed Wednesday night and cancellation of the first four series of the season appeared certain, hope flared with word from an MLB spokesperson that talks were continuing on the sticky issue.

If the talks resulted in a resolution, the sides could re-engage on the rest of their issues and then be able to re-evaluate how many games will be played this season.

That means a 162-game season might be possible after all, although that would require a quick resolution, perhaps as early as Thursday, on the remainder of the CBA..

The bewildering flip-flop came after the league said the union did not meet its 6 p.m. deadline for responding to a series of choices over the international draft-draft pick compensation issues that emerged as a roadblock Wednesday afternoon.


By missing the deadline, MLB felt compelled to follow through on the consequences, which was to be further cancellation of series.

MLB canceled the first two series of the season a week ago.

The weird turn of events began Wednesday in the early morning hours, when the sides decided around 3 am to pause talks and allow the players to consult their board before making their first proposal.

Early in the afternoon, MLB Players Association presented MLB with a counter-proposal that it had spent most of the early- and late-morning formulating after extensive talks with the league Monday and Tuesday.

Expecting a counter-proposal, the union instead was surprised to receive what it considered an ultimatum from MLB: Choose one of three options concerning the international draft and draft pick compensation, or else forget about receiving a counter-proposal.

After rejecting the three proposals, Manfred’s statement about canceling games was released.

“The Clubs went to extraordinary lengths to meet the substantial demands of the MLBPA,” read Manfred’s statement. “On the key economic issues that have posed stumbling blocks, the Clubs proposed ways to bridge gaps to preserve a full schedule. Regrettably, after our second late-night bargaining session in a week, we remain without a deal.”


The union responded soon after with its own statement.

“The owners’ decision to cancel additional games is completely unnecessary. After making a set of comprehensive proposals to the league earlier this afternoon, and being told substantive responses were forthcoming, Players have yet to hear back.”

Not long after that statement came word from the MLB spokesperson that talks on the international draft were ongoing, and that the league hoped it could reach a resolution.

Should the talks collapse again, the perhaps unsafe assumption is that the first four series will have to be canceled.

Opening Day, originally scheduled for March 31, would then take place no earlier than April 14, with the first four series of the season now scratched. That would mean the Red Sox’ three-game series vs. the Yankees April 7-10 in New York and a three-game set vs. the Tigers April 11-13 in Detroit would be lost.

April 15 marks the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson Day, the celebration of the 1947 Opening Day when Robinson broke the color barrier.

A settlement in the next day or two might allow both the league and players to avoid the further embarrassment of missing the annual celebration, which carries significant cultural weight not only to baseball, but US history.


The owners locked out the players on Dec. 2, starting the first work stoppage in the last 26 years.

The players have been seeking the majority of changes in the next CBA, with the owners largely content to retain most of the key elements and structures of the expired CBA.

The players’ wish-list has centered on getting younger players paid more and paid earlier and improving competitive integrity in the sport.

The “structural roadblock” mentioned by a league official in an early afternoon media briefing concerned the players’ unwillingness to accept the international draft the owners want. The draft has been in every MLB proposal since last July. The union has rejected the plan each time.

The first option proposed by the league was for the union to accept the international draft in exchange for eliminating draft pick compensation, a feature the players have felt acts as a drag on free agent signings.

The second option was the status quo — no international draft and keep the qualifying offer set-up.

The third option was to eliminate draft pick compensation and give players until this Nov. 15 to agree to an international draft. If the union did not agree to the international draft by then, MLB would be able to reopen the next CBA after 2024, making it a three-year rather than five-year deal.

Though you wouldn’t know it from how the day initially ended, the sides did make real progress on bridging their financial gaps over the last two days.


On minimum salaries, the players are at $710,000 and finishing at $780,000 by the end of the deal, with MLB at $700,000-$770,000.

On the pre-arbitration bonus pool the players dropped down to $65 million with the owners at $40 million.

On CBT, the players’ thresholds range $232 million to $250 million, while the owners are at $230 million to $242 million.

Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com.