MLB Lockout Rumors: Expanded Playoffs Being Leveraged For Better Pay Elsewhere
MLB: Contract Negotiations

After nearly 17 hours of negotiating at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB chose to push back their deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now, a deal must be agreed to by 2:00 p.m. PT Tuesday to avoid game cancellations.

The competitive balance tax — both thresholds and punishments — remains one of the most substantial issues. However, what we’ve only learned in recent days in just how vital expanded playoffs are to the league’s ownership.

MLB is desperately pushing for a 14-team playoff, up from the current 10-team format. The Players Association is massively resistant to this change, fearing it will encourage owners to spend less in an attempt to sneak a cheap team into the 14th spot.

The union has already conceded a 12-team playoff, meaning the postseason will be expanded in some form starting this season. However, MLB is now using the playoff expansion as leverage in other parts of the negotiation, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN:

The league had offered players a $700,000 minimum and $40 million bonus pool if the players accepted playoff expansion to 14 teams, but fears of teams’ ability to sneak into the playoffs with mediocre records and the potential for that to impede spending prompted the players to seek a 12-team postseason with lower minimums and pools, sources said.

A $700,000 minimum and $40 million bonus pool is much closer to the original asks of the Players Association. However, it would come at a cost that the union is extremely reluctant to pay. MLB did make counter-offers based on a 12-team playoff as well.

MLB made significant moves Monday and early Tuesday, bumping the CBT threshold to $220 million, the minimum salary to $675,000 and the bonus pool to $25 million, according to sources. The union long had pursued a CBT threshold of $245 million, a minimum salary of $775,000 and a bonus pool of $115 million, though the continued meetings Tuesday illustrate its willingness to move off its demands. The union also dropped its proposal to increase the number of arbitration-eligible players with two years’ service from 22%.

As the two sides inch closer and closer to a deal, the CBT and expanded playoffs could be the defining issues that shape a new CBA. If the players stand firm on 12 teams, we’ll see financial details closer to what MLB had been seeking from the beginning.

If the union gets their way on CBT, minimum salaries, a bonus pool, and other topics, it will mean a 14-team playoff, moving the MLB closer to the other major sports league in terms of percentage of teams that make the playoffs.

MLB showed willingness to miss a month of games

Prior to the furious negotiations on Monday, MLB signaled that they would be willing to miss a month of games if they did not get the right deal. Clearly, some big moves were made in both directions, as they appear closer to a deal than ever on Tuesday morning.

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