JUPITER, Fla. — Five hours in the boardroom on Monday — sometimes together, sometimes in their own caucus — didn’t equate to major progress between MLB and the MLB Players Association as the sides remain far apart on a new collective bargaining agreement, sources told ESPN.
In the offices overlooking the spring field where the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins train, leadership from both sides began what is an important week of negotiations in order to preserve Opening Day on March 31.
Already, the start of spring training has been delayed with games postponed until at least March 5 as the owners continue to impose a lockout on players.
On Monday, the league increased its commitment in a pre-arbitration pool to $20 million — an increase of $5 million since its last offer — while adding another team to the lottery in its new NBA-style draft proposal. The moves were consistent with the incremental adjustments both sides have made throughout the months of negotiations.
Also on Monday, MLB with draw its request of the union to control — and potentially reduce — the number of minor league playing jobs, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The league could try to unilaterally go forward, but it won’t do so in 2022 and at the moment does not have plans to pursue it in 2023. Along with the withdrawal of the minor league playing jobs proposal, MLB pulled its offer limiting the number of times a player can be opted to five. The constant shuttling between the big leagues and Triple-A is a quality-of-life issue for players, who have proposed a maximum of four options.
Major economic issues, including the competitive balance tax, minimum salaries and revenue sharing weren’t addressed in a meaningful way on Monday, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The league believes it’s the union’s turn to compromise in a proposal regarding the CBT after recently tweaking its latest offer with modest sized increases in the final three years of the next collective bargaining agreement. The last year would call for a first tax threshold of $222 million with stiffer financial penalties throughout the system. The union wants to see a bump up to $245 million as soon as next season without the penalties being worse.
Even with the increase in the pre-arbitration pool by the league, the sides still remain far apart on that number. The union has never dropped below asking for $100 million in any of its proposals. In its latest one, the union asked for $115 million, though in the same proposal it reduced the percentage of Super 2 players who would be eligible for arbitration from 100 percent to 80 percent.
While the league added a fourth team to its lottery draft — up from three — it’s still not enough to help address tanking, according to sources on the players’ side. The union has asked for eight teams to be in the lottery as to avert a race to the bottom each season.
After meeting together for over an hour on Monday, the sides split up to talk among themselves for several hours before reconvening. They split up again before calling it a day after 6 pm ET.
Ten players were in attendance for the meeting, including Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Whit Merrifield and Paul Goldschmidt. During time with their own caucus, players zoomed with other reps from around the country.
Labor committee chair and Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort and past chair and San Diego Padres owner Ron Fowler were in attendance as well. Union chief Tony Clark was there but commissioner Rob Manfred was not.
No one on either side believed Monday would be the game-changer — as the deadline to play Opening Day on time is at least a week away — but major progress has to be made on the core economic issues before it’s too late. The sides will meet again on Tuesday.