With three hours left before Major League Baseball’s late-February deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement that avoids disrupting the start of the regular season, there appears to be progress in negotiations. The parties continue to talk late into the evening and various reports suggest the league has moved in the direction of the Players’ Association in a few key areas.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (on Twitter) that the league offered more player-friendly provisions than it had in the past on issues such as the league’s minimum wage, the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players and the tax on the competitive balance. Passan warns there hasn’t been enough movement for a deal to be imminent, but it’s possible teams will make enough progress tonight that the league will push back its deadline to avoid game cancellations at tomorrow so that they can continue to negotiate.
As has been the case throughout negotiations, one of the league’s primary goals is to expand the playoff field. MLB sought a 14-team field; the MLBPA has agreed to move beyond the current 10-team playoff format, but has drawn the line at 12 teams so far. The league presented two simultaneous proposals to the union on the league minimum and the bonus pool, Athletic’s Evan Drellich reports (Twitter link). In the event of a 12-team playoff, the league offers a minimum salary of approximately $675,000 and would agree to set aside approximately $20 millionM for the bonus pool; if the union agreed to a 14-team postseason, the league would accept a minimum in the range of $700,000 with approximately $40 million for the bonus pool.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweet that MLB has also reduced its desired penalties for clubs that exceed the luxury tax threshold. The details of MLB’s latest proposal are unclear, but the league has pursued increased penalties for taxpayers in previous demands. The union has vehemently opposed this possibility, fearing that harsher penalties will make the TCC thresholds work more like a salary cap. SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the league is still seeking higher penalties than existed in the previous CBA, but has seemingly come closer to the status quo than it had sought in previous bids.
This is undoubtedly a positive development for fans who eagerly await any meaningful progress in the ABC talks. However, it’s important for fans not to put the cart before the horse. Drellich adds that a deal is still “not close” and it is certainly uncertain whether the momentum will continue to roll towards a deal in the coming days. A union source tells reporters (including Chris Cotillo of MassLive), the parties are “still very far apart on key aspects” necessary to reach an agreement.
Indeed, the league’s offers on the minimum and pre-arb bonus pool are more favorable to players than their previous offers (especially those related to 14-team playoffs), but they still fall short of player goals. . The union has requested a minimum of $775,000 next season, which would increase by $30,000 each year of the CBA’s tenure. The MLBPA has sought a pool of $115 million for pre-arb players, $75 million more than the league’s offer tied to a 14-team postseason.
It’s also unclear where the parts on the CBT are specifically located. The union is looking to hit $245 million for the base luxury tax threshold next season, while the league’s last known offer was $214 million. It’s possible that MLB expressed some willingness to raise the lowest CBT number, but it’s unlikely that it agreed to move up to $245 million. The union also demanded a slight increase in the number of players eligible for arbitration; the MLBPA is seeking Super Two eligibility for 35% of players with between two and three years of service, while MLB has staunchly refused to consider any jump over the status quo of 22% in that bucket.
Where things go from here remains very up in the air. It doesn’t seem likely that a new CBA will be finalized tonight, but at least it looks like there’s a chance they’ll make enough progress to avoid the league officially declaring regular season games canceled. Martino tweet that the parties prepare for the possibility that negotiations will continue “late into the night”.