The MLBPA and MLB owners met for the fourth time this past Tuesday (February 1), and to no one’s surprise, were not able to come to an agreement.
Spring training looms in the not-so-distant future, and with pitchers and catchers due to report on February 15, it’s looking more and more likely that the 2022 MLB season will be delayed. It’s an unfortunate turn of events, as negotiations seemed to be progressing after a January 25 meeting, but now it almost feels like negotiations have taken three steps back.
As reported by Evan Drellich, the minimum league salary, pre-arbitration bonus pool, and luxury tax are all key issues that continue to keep negotiations at a standstill. For example, the MLBPA proposed a pre-arbitration bonus pool of $100 million, while the league’s response was merely $10 million, illustrating just how far apart both parties remain. MLB claims to agree with the MLBPA that there needs to be an improvement in pay for younger players, but its proposal seems to indicate otherwise.
Both the league and players remain firm on their stances surrounding minimum player salaries and the luxury tax, leaving some of the non-core issues on the back burner, such as playoff expansion, universal DH, draft picks, and so on.
In a new turn of events, Jeff Passan reported on Thursday that MLB requested assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. This comes as an interesting move from the owners, considering they have yet to make a reasonable offer, or actually further discuss players requests.
In fact, just prior to news breaking about MLB’s desire to have the federal government intervene came the report that MLB’s promised counterproposal for the next negotiation session was just ... not going to happen. It seems early in talks to pull a slow-down offense, but that’s just what the owners are doing, hoping as always to smoke out players hungry for a paycheck. With the current MLBPA war chest hovering at $200 million or so, it’s a strange ploy.
While hopefully federal intervention will trigger negotiations to advance between the league and the players, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to reach that point. And past federal mediation, as in 1981, didn’t further matters much.
We can play devil’s advocate all day in terms of which side is holding up the bargaining progress, but there would be no MLB without the players. It also doesn’t seem that MLB is in any hurry to get a deal finalized, especially given the trial run in 2020 where they were able to “pull off” a shortened 60-game season during the midst of the pandemic.
At this rate, this would be the second shortened MLB season in the span of three years, and fans are understandably frustrated. While us White Sox fans should be basking in the excitement of free agency and arguing about how Jerry Reinsdorf should spend his money, we instead are forced to sit and wait on the sidelines — with Reinsdorf most likely one of the most hawkish owners with regard to war with the players.
At this juncture, spring training as scheduled is in serious doubt. It already may be time to adjust our expectations for an 80- or 100-game season.
We can only hope that negotiations progress quickly over the next couple of weeks, to remain on track for Opening Day.