Negotiations between MLB owners and the Players Association have picked up recently.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the two sides are particularly close to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Quite the contrary, in fact, there isn’t a resolution in sight, as the owners’ first offer of 2022 wasn’t well-received by players.
Owners made an offer, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, “to curtail service time manipulation and tanking and pay players w/2-plus years of service time more.”
The players union is preparing a response to MLB’s recent proposal to be delivered within days. MLB made an offer to curtail service time manipulation and tanking and pay players w/2-plus years of service time more. Players were disappointed the biggest issues weren’t address.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2022
In addition to that, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that MLB, in its offer, “tweaked its proposed draft lottery and offered the ability for teams to earn draft picks if top prospects find early success in the major leagues.”
Heyman reported that players, despite their disappointment, were preparing a counteroffer, to be delivered “within days”.
The players, generally speaking, were disappointed at the offer because they felt the most important things weren’t addressed in that meeting.
The Players’ Demands
What were those things?
Passan says that among crucial topics not discussed are modifications to the competitive balance tax and raising the league’s minimum salary.
Players want an increased competitive balance tax (CBT) because it would prompt them to spend more in free agency, extensions, and salaries.
MLB owners have made it clear that they want no changes to the current revenue-sharing plan, and they want free agency to begin after six years of service time; players will likely include changes to both of those circumstances in their counterproposal.
The impression from outside is that players are making reasonable demands: players’ first chance of making life-changing money comes after three full seasons, in salary arbitration, and they are free to negotiate with every team after six campaigns.
Usually, this comes when players are over 30 and past their physical prime.
Players also want the minimum salary, which is currently at $570,000, to go significantly up.
Naturally, owners are opposed to the idea.
There Isn’t Much Optimism For A Quick Deal
In fact, there is a growing sense in the union that MLB is coming with another hopeless offer after they receive the counterproposal from the first approach by owners, made on January 13.
There haven’t been any major proposals about the fate of minor leaguers, their housing and compensation.
Perhaps the most unprotected sector during negotiations, minor leaguers have rights and they shouldn’t be exploited, forced to sleep in often precarious “rooms” with not enough space to move.
CBA negotiations are not in an advanced stage: both sides lost almost six weeks of talks since early December, when owners imposed a lockout.
That lockout came with a transaction freeze: teams can only make minor league signings, announce changes to their coaching staffs, and things like that.
We are starting to approach dangerous territory when it comes to the CBA negotiations: if they don’t agree by mid-February (and there is a good chance they won’t), the start of spring training could be push back.
That could mean the 2022 season isn’t played under the regular, 162-game calendar.
No matter when it starts, there will be a spring training, but if the sides reach a deal, say, in April, the season will likely start at some point in May because teams need to prepare themselves for the campaign.
This is very important to understand: Bargaining is not linear. Sometimes it's big proposals. Others it's incremental. The union will counter — likely sooner than later.
This is a long process. Significant progress before March 1, when games are threatened, could be minimal.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 13, 2022
A full slate of games is now in jeopardy.