On Saturday, Major League Baseball presented the MLB Players Association with a new core economics proposal as the two sides continue to work through collective bargaining talks. The meeting, which lasted approximately one hour, was their first meeting in 11 days and their fifth in-person bargaining session of the owner-initiated lockout.
The MLBPA will take time to fully review MLB's proposal, though they came away unimpressed, reports The Athletic's Evan Drellich. The proposal combined several previous smaller proposals and included the following adjustments, according to Drellich and ESPN's Jesse Rogers:
- Increase the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players from $10 million to $15 million. The MLBPA is seeking a $100 million pool.
- Increase the minimum salary to $630,000 flat (teams can pay more if they want), or a tiered set salary of $615,000 for players with 0-1 years of service time, $650,000 for 1-2 years, and $725,000 for 2-3 years. MLB previously offered $700,000 at 2-3 years. The MLBPA is seeking a $775,000 minimum at all service time levels.
- Increase the competitive balance tax thresholds to $214 million, $214 million, $216 million, $218 million, and $222 million from 2022-26. MLB's previous offer included a $214 million threshold from 2022-24, $216 million in 2025, and $220 million in 2026. The MLBPA is seeking a $245 million threshold in 2022. The threshold was $210 million in 2021.
- Teams receive two draft picks if a star prospect finishes in the top three in a major awards voting in multiple years as a way to disincentivize service time manipulation. The MLBPA proposed service time bonuses tied to awards voting.
Earlier this week commissioner Rob Manfred said the owners will make a "good faith, positive proposal in a effort to move the process forward" on Saturday, though that was met with skepticism among the player ranks. As the league held their quarterly owners' meetings in Orlando this week, the MLBPA held meetings in Arizona and Florida.
"My expectations don't really matter," lefty Andrew Miller, a member of the MLBPA's executive subcommittee, told the New York Post's Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff on Thursday. "We'll see it when it comes across (on Saturday). We hope it's something we can work with and it's a true start to negotiations. We haven't seen that yet. Talking is good."
MLB and the MLBPA were not expected to reach a new agreement on Saturday. The hope is MLB's new proposal can serve as a springboard to more substantive talks, which have been few and far between thus far during the lockout. It is unclear when the two sides will meet again to discuss core economics issues, the issues that will determine when the lockout ends.
Spring training camps are scheduled to open next week and that almost certainly will not happen, though MLB has yet to officially announce a delay. Earlier this week Manfred said he thinks players and the league need about four weeks to prepare for the season. In that case, the two sides have roughly two weeks to reach an agreement before regular-season games are in jeopardy.
"I am an optimist and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule," Manfred said Thursday. "I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry, and we're committed to making an agreement in an effort to avoid that."
MLB's slow negotiating pace -- the league waited 43 days into the lockout to make its first core economics proposal -- made it likely spring training will be delayed and put regular season games at risk. The league requested assistance from a federal mediator last week, a request the MLBPA denied, saying "the clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table."
It must be noted the owners could lift the lockout at any time, which would allow spring training to open next week and baseball operations to return in full. If the owners lift the lockout, the National Labor Relations Act requires the two sides hold good faith negotiations while operating under the terms of the just expired collective bargaining agreement.
The owners have indicated no willingness to do that, though there is precedent. On March 31, 1995, current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a preliminary injunction against MLB, which ended the players' strike and sent the two sides back to the table while the sport resumed. MLB and the MLBPA did not agree to a new collective bargaining agreement until March 1997.
MLB and the MLBPA have made some progress in recent weeks. Among other things, the league says it is open to the union's framework for a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players (as noted though, they're tens of millions of dollars apart on the size of the pool) and baseball will reportedly have a universal designated hitter beginning this season.
The collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1 and the owners locked out the players immediately. At 73 days and counting, this is the second longest work stoppage in baseball history, shorter than only the 1994-95 strike (232 days).
Members on both sides have said they are willing to lose regular season games to get a fair deal, though they hope it doesn't come to that.