As January comes to an end, there is no agreement in place between MLB owners and the Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The CBA is the governing document for all matters related to the MLB season: regulations, conditions, and rules.
Baseball, with no CBA, is like a country with no laws.
The new season can’t start until an agreement is reached.
Where do we stand at the moment, as we enter the month in which spring training starts every year?
Delaying Spring Training Is Not Just Possible, But Likely
The possibility of a delayed spring training is very much real, and the odds of missing regular season games increases with each passing day.
Last week, there were some advances in talks: both parties agreed on the fact that young stars need to earn more than just the league minimum, so they will create a bonus pool to fund these raises to the top 30 players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
However, players want the pool to be worth over $100 million, while owners want it to be around $10 million.
The enormous gap between the two numbers is roughly the same as the one existing right now in negotiations between owners and the union, unfortunately.
The sides are also way apart in minimum salary increase: right now, it is at $570,500.
MLB is offering a raise to around $600,000, while players want something closer to $800,000 ($775,000, to be exact).
$570,500 <—- 2021 minimum MLB salary
$600,000 <—- 2022 minimum proposed by owners
$775,000 <—- 2022 minimum proposed by players
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) January 25, 2022
This is awfully important because players will earn this salary from year one to year three in the majors.
A little over 60 percent of players fall into this group, so the league knows it is in for a sizable increase in this particular regard.
Luxury Tax, Tanking, Service Time, And Other Issues
Another key issue is the luxury tax, or “competitive balance tax” (CBT).
The CBT is currently at $210 million: it essentially acts as a soft cap, because if teams surpass it, penalties are in play.
Players want the league to increase the CBT, naturally, so they can have a chance at better, larger contracts.
Tanking is another problem, and the league has acknowledged it by discussing the possibility of a draft lottery, like what happens in the NBA.
The service-time manipulation, the one that the Seattle Mariners evidenced last year and helped us set an excellent example, is another point of discussion.
Certainly jarring for Seattle #Mariners prized prospect Jarred Kelenic to learn that he won't be making their opening-day roster after rejecting a six-year contract extension with options, as Mariners president Kevin Mather disclosed. Of course, it delays his service time. https://t.co/dp0VoxsTva
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 21, 2021
Players want it to disappear and want to add a full service time year to those who have high finishes in the Rookie of the Year voting process; but owners are, so far, only willing to reward teams that promote top prospects quickly with a draft pick.
Sadly, these differences won’t disappear overnight.
To get to this point, owners and players spent two full days negotiating, and while they did advance some, the progress was minimal at best.
At least both sides are already making concessions for the other in order to accelerate things, but at this point, there appears to be no realistic path toward a full spring training calendar.
The first spring training games are scheduled for February 26, which is less than a month from now.
The MLB lockout is still in full swing, until further notice.
Regular season games are officially at risk at this point.