MLB Rumors: League Willing To Create Bonus Pool For Pre-Arbitration Players
Rob Manfred
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

It has been nearly two full months since team owners imposed a lockout at the start of December when the 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired. Although it took some time before substantive talks were held, MLB and Players Association have met on consecutive days this week to discuss core economic issues.

The union took a significant step toward helping facilitate a resolution on Monday by reportedly dropping its request for an age-based free agency system and revising their proposal pertaining to revenue sharing amongst teams.

On Tuesday, it was the league’s turn to make some concessions. Along with offering to increase the minimum salary, MLB showed a willingness to establish a pool of money for pre-arbitration players, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic:

MLB made a proposal based around a concept the union itself had introduced: creating a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. This would bring new money, funded by MLB’s central revenues, to young players who perform well. One criterion for a bonus would be a top finish in wins above replacement rankings.

Now, in the union’s version of this bonus pool, $105 million would be newly available to players. The league’s proposal Tuesday included less than a 10th of that, at $10 million. That gap is huge. But, the very fact that both sides are on board with the concept suggests it is likely that whenever a deal is reached, we’re going to see a bonus pool of some amount.

While it’s encouraging that MLB appears to be open to paying pre-arbitration players more money, their proposal comes with a few caveats. For one, the league is offering only $10 million in the pool, which falls short of what the union has requested by $95 million.

Furthermore, MLB wants to distribute the funds to only the top 30 pre-arbitration players based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and awards, such as the MVP and Cy Young.

The Players Association has been skeptical of similar proposals in the past, including MLB’s concept of awarding draft picks based on a top prospect’s success and replacing the current arbitration system with a model centered around FanGraphs’ version of WAR.

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s CBA meeting between the league and union is being viewed as a step in the right direction. It’s clear that the sides remain far apart on several key issues, but the fact they are communicating more frequently bodes well for a new deal potentially coming to fruition in the next couple of weeks.

When is next CBA meeting?

Currently, there are no scheduled meetings between MLB and the Players Association, but reports suggest that could change by the end of the week.

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