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February 28 CBA Update: Deadline day?

A marathon 16 hours of meetings bring progress, but season still in jeopardy.

MLB: Lockout
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred walks after negotiations with the players association in an attempt to reach an agreement to salvage March 31 openers and a 162-game season, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

Monday marked the 89th and final day of MLB’s imposed deadline to get a CBA signed in order to preserve Opening Day on March 31. Representatives from both sides met through 13 negotiating sessions for more than 16 hours, with talks wrapping up at about 2:30 a.m. EST.

On Sunday there was hardly any movement made, leaving Monday as the last-ditch effort to get a deal done to avoid canceling games. And wouldn’t you know it, MLB made sure to double down on their threat about game cancelations, reportedly willing to miss up to a month’s worth of games. If only the league spent the same amount of energy improving the game as it is trying to save a few extra bucks at the players’ expense.

It’s apparent that the players didn’t have much hope for striking a deal today, with MLBPA even beginning to organize training facilities for locked-out players in both Arizona and Florida in the event that the lockout continues and games are canceled. Throughout the day, however, there was a shift in the tone surrounding the meetings, with reports that talks had been progressing — though most of the positive updates were followed by, “we are still far away from a deal.”

Evan Drellich reported that MLB’s most recent proposals include the desired 14-team expanded playoff linked to an increase in minimum salaries and the pre-arbitration bonus pool, and the owners had provided two playoff offers to the players, including one with 12 teams:

The league clearly wants 14 teams in the playoffs, and that $100 million in TV revenue, as it offered an increase in two key areas for the players for pretty much the first time since negotiations began — though the players have been adamant that they do not want 14 teams in the playoffs.

As negotiations progressed and it got closer to midnight, Bob Nightengale embarked on his redemption tour, providing the first breakthrough news of the negotiations. He reported that MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a 12-team playoff, and luxury tax penalties will remain similar to the expiring CBA — 20% over the first threshold benchmark, 32% over the second, and 62.5% over the third.

While this is a huge development, and a step in the right direction, the two sides still need to work through the remaining core economic issues. While the 14-team playoff is guaranteed to bring in $100 million of revenue just from TV money, the league still stands to receive an increase in revenue with the 12-team expansion. And expanded playoffs are contingent on everything else falling into place.

Throughout the marathon of meetings, the league also provided additional updates to their proposal prior to closing out meetings for the day. MLB proposed a luxury tax beginning at $220 million in 2022 increasing up to $230 million by 2026, but not until years four and five; the players are requesting more, in the ~$30 million-plus range.

The league also proposed $25 million for the pre-arbitration bonus pool, up from $20 million, and a minimum salary of $675,000, up from $640,000. This is an improvement, but players are aiming for $700,000-plus for minimum salary and a bigger increase in the bonus pool, and they are even willing to withdraw their proposal of Super Two player expansion if they can make progress in other areas.

It’s a good sign that both sides have touched on majority of the contentious topics, even at one point discussing the defensive shift (seems there are more crucial items to hammer out guys, stay focused). Players are working to make a deal, but still don’t want to concede to an inadequate proposal just to get the season going, which seems to be a mistake made by the MLBPA more than once in the past.

Negotiations have definitely progressed, bringing a bit more optimism as talks continue Tuesday, with MLB shifting their imposed deadline to 5:00 p.m. EST. Both sides want to feed off of the momentum that the talks have brought today, but if a deal is not done by the league’s extended deadline, regular season games will be canceled.

We’ll have updates later on Tuesday if a deal is struck — or if things turn south.