MLB fans got their hopes moderately up when they heard, last week, that MLB and the Players Association would be meeting every day starting from Monday to try and come up with a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Indeed, the sides met every day from Monday through Friday (and will do it over the weekend, too, per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers), but unfortunately, there was no deal. Even worse, there wasn’t even some minimal progress regarding key economic issues, like minimum salary, the bonus pool for outstanding pre-arbitration players, and the competitive balance tax (CBT).
If it wasn’t for some late progress regarding the amateur draft lottery in late Friday, we would be talking about a wasted week in CBA talks, which leads us into thinking what we probably don’t want to think: media, fans, and players must prepare for regular-season games being lost.
MLB unilaterally set a deadline for agreeing to a new CBA, which is February 28: if there is no deal by that date, they say games will be lost and won’t be rescheduled. Payment won’t be recouped. The union didn’t respond to this deadline yet, but they disagree with it, and while they are willing to play doubleheaders to complete the 162 games, owners want nothing to do with that idea.
In short: there is no agreement in sight, so we should all temper our expectations about seeing games that count soon. Perhaps if the two sides were closer, but they are extremely far apart in their respective demands:
Five days before the deadline MLB says will postpone regular-season games, here's the gap between the sides in their latest proposals:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 23, 2022
Pre-arb bonus pool: $95M
Minimum salary: $135K/player
Draft lottery: 3 picks
That's a lot to cover in less than a week. Like, a lot.
It took weeks for MLB to get its offer for minimum salary to $640,000 (increasing by $10,000 each year of the new CBA until reaching $680,000 in 2026), but players want to start at $775,000. It also took weeks for the league to increase its offer of a bonus pool for outstanding young players with 0-3 years of service time from $5 million to $20 million, but there is still a $95 million gap considering what players want (MLB is seeking to compensate 30 players, the MLBPA is looking at 150). And the sides haven’t even seriously talked about the CBT.
The CBT could be the one element that delays any deal for several more weeks. Not only the league wants to implement just a marginal increase in the threshold (currently at $210 million in 2021, it would start at $214 million according to the league’s offer), but it also wants to implement steeper penalties for teams who exceed it. That’s where they completely lose players, who have been adamant in social media about increasing the punishment for surpassing the threshold.
If penalties increase under the CBT/Luxury tax IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THE THRESHOLD IS MY GOD. Make the threshold a billion dollars it doesn’t matter. Teams already don’t spend bc they use the current penalties as an excuse not to. Imagine if the penalties got worse. SMH.— Alex Wood (@Awood45) February 12, 2022
At least the league apparently stopped pursuing the ability to alter the minor league’s Domestic Reserve List, with a potential elimination of minor league playing jobs in mind. That won’t be happening, at least not soon.
By the look of things, there won’t be any deal whatsoever on Monday, and that’s when we will see where each side is at. Just as a reminder, the league can lift the lockout at any minute and there could be a season, with both sides negotiating to find a new CBA. It won’t happen, though, because owners wouldn’t want to lose leverage.
Just a few weeks ago, New York Mets’ shortstop Francisco Lindor implied that if players had to sacrifice games in exchange for getting the best possible CBA deal, they would be open to do it. Brace yourselves, because the likelihood of the regular season starting on time is now incredibly low.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13