For the first time in over a month, Major League Baseball met with the Players Association to discuss a legitimate proposal featuring core economic issues. While there was next to no hope for a deal to be in place, it absolutely could have served as a step in the right direction.
Instead, what came out of this session was more of the same. MLB refused the meet the players even halfway on some issues, while completely ignoring some of the players’ greatest concerns. As details of this meeting began to surface, it became clear that a delayed start to Spring Training is absolutely on the table.
Such little progress was made at this meeting that the two sides did not even discuss a follow-up session, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic:
No follow-up bargaining session was immediately scheduled as of Thursday afternoon, people with knowledge of the talks said. The union will hold internal discussions on how to respond.
MLB brought in a number of proposals, including tweaks to the amateur draft, Super Two contracts, service-time manipulation, expanded playoffs, a universal DH, and minimum salaries. However, the players’ most important issue — the competitive balance tax — was left untouched by MLB.
MLB did not propose anything new on the competitive balance tax, a crucial issue to players. MLB previously offered to raise the threshold to $214 million and $220 million, a modest increase from the current $210 million figure. In conjunction, the league also wants to increase the penalty for surpassing that first threshold, proposing a 50 percent tax and the surrender of a third-round draft pick, with penalties escalating from there. Those are stronger penalties than are in place now. (MLB in this system would be eliminating the changes in penalties based on how many consecutive years a team finished above the first tier.) Meanwhile, the MLBPA’s most recent proposal included a first tier of $245 million.
With the league not even making a proposal regarding this issue, it had to be known on both sides that this bargaining session was going to be dead on arrival. The players have shown little willingness to budge on the competitive balance tax, hoping to significantly raise the bar to allow teams to spend more on players.
As they have done with a number of other issues, MLB has not budged from the idea of protecting small market teams. However, the players’ proposals are ones that could absolutely benefit small markets, as allowing for more spending without penalty could make it easier for small market teams to build out competitive rosters.
There is about one month until pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Spring Training. But at this rate, it would be shocking to see a new Collective Bargaining Agreement come together in that time frame.
One thing that could be holding up these negotiations is a mentality from both sides. An NBA source, who dealt with CBA negotiations during the 2011-12 NBA lockout, said that it’s common for both sides to stay unwavering in their proposals until the last possible second.
Because of this, neither the players nor the league figures to feel any pressure until Spring Training is actually approaching, instead of being a full month away.