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Another deadline blown? MLB wipes two more series off of the schedule

Your new Opening Day? April 14.

Syndication: USA TODAY Patrick Breen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Following Tuesday’s 17-hour negotiating session lasting until nearly 2:30 a.m. ET, representatives from MLB and the MLBPA met again on Wednesday to attempt to get a deal signed before MLB’s extended “deadline” to avoid wiping more regular season games off of the schedule. The league pushed their imposed deadline to Wednesday to keep the momentum going before having to postpone the season even further, but in the end, Rob Manfred canceled another week of games, pushing Opening Day to April 14.

Tuesday ended with the MLBPA reviewing the league’s proposal, which was much more reasonable than past plans — bridging some of the gap on core economic issues such as the CBT, minimum salaries, and the pre-arbitration pool. At face value, it seemed like things were looking up with this proposal, giving hope that baseball would move on into the 2022 season.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, as the owners linked this proposal to developing an international draft, something the players have been at best apathetic about from the beginning. It was reported that the draft had been included in previous proposals, though the league had rejected it each time, and had not been a central issue.

MLB Proposal — Tuesday March 8

CBT: $230 million in 2022, increasing to $242 million by 2026

  • $230M, $232M, $236M, $240M, $242M

League Minimum Salary: $700,000 in 2022, increasing to $770,000 by 2026

  • $700K, $715K, $730K, $750K, $770K

Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool: $40 million flat through 2026

The proposal also touched on other issues, including MLB meeting the players’ lottery draft pick request of six teams (up from five), updates to draft lottery selection, service time manipulation, and of course, the international draft.

MLBPA had provided their counterproposal to MLB’s offer from Tuesday, and outside of the international draft, the two sides moved even closer together on the core issues. As Evan Drellich reported, the players dropped an additional $15 million from the pre-arbitration pool, decreased their CBT threshold even further, and saw minimum salaries sit just $10,000 more than MLB’s proposal:

  • CBT: $232 million in 2022, increasing to $250 million by 2026
  • League Minimum Salary: $710,000 in 2022, increasing to $780,000 by 2026
  • Pre-arbitration Bonus Pool: $65 million + $5 million per year through 2026

The union had also proposed removing qualifying offers, as they had in previous proposals. And as Ken Rosenthal reported, some players have been adamant that the international draft is a “non-starter” for them. While headway was made in some of the economic areas, a new roadblock had presented itself with the international draft. The MLBPA became flustered, as they felt like the league introduced the draft at the last minute as a power play — once again, attempting to shift the negativity and blame off of themselves.

David Ortiz provided his perspective to ESPN as a very prominent Dominican player, sharing how the Dominican baseball system would not be prepared for a draft so soon. He did express that a draft itself could be helpful in attempting to repair an already very flawed system, but that it is important not to rush the draft, and allow players to have a voice first. As Jeff Passan recounted, young kids can be taken advantage of, offered high deals at a young age, and become exposed to PED use. The MLBPA shares the same desire to fix the current system, but was caught off-guard by the fact that MLB hadn’t formally proposed an international draft, then all of a sudden had it all planned out right before the latest (made-up) deadline.

As noted above, the league had revised their proposal back to the MLBPA, pushing the desired start date of the draft back to 2024, allowing a little bit more time to work through the details. The main issue that the MLBPA had was that MLB introduced a complex issue very late in the game, after the union had repeatedly said no during talks over the last year. The timing was especially curious, as the negotiators had their backs up against the wall, racing to make a deal before the third (fourth? seventh??) league-imposed deadline to avoid game postponement.

MLB then provided the players with three options they could choose from: Accept the offer as is with no international draft, delay the draft and honor the draft pick compensation removal, or potentially reopen the CBA back up in 2024. Those options weren’t bad, but it would be brutal to cancel more games for a last-minute addition of an international draft. But MLB couched the choice as an ultimatum: “Pick one of these three, or more games will be canceled.” That hasn’t proven to be a successful strategy thus far, so sure! Why not try it one more time, right Rob?

No matter what, at this point if the players pushed back, the league had positioned them as the bad guys if they didn’t accept. MLB gave the players yet another (also vague) deadline of Wednesday evening, as they mulled over the three options. The MLBPA provided a counterproposal to the league, essentially making the same offer, but with the caveat of working through the draft details by November 15 — and as Jon Heyman pointed out, that was actually Manfred’d original idea! Spoiler alert!! MLB rejected the offer because it came after their contrived deadline, and thus the league canceled another week of games.

It was also reported that MLB was supposed to make a counteroffer to the union, but instead of doing that they postponed more of the season. Regardless of what side you support or are frustrated with, why would you reject a very similar offer if you actually cared about the sport and fans? Considering that Manfred had already floated the “work it out” idea, he basically took an L from his own deadline — which is kind of impressive, actually.

The union also put out a statement after games were canceled, conveying how unnecessary it was, as the two sides had been making some progress.

MLBPA executive committee member Max Scherzer had been present for the majority of bargaining sessions throughout the lockout, especially during last week’s meetings in Jupiter, Fla. Despite being someone who is fairly inactive on Twitter, Scherzer shared his point of view of how the international draft impacted the negotiations — which was not supposed to be proposed at all.

Now obviously, none of us were in the room for these meetings, but we also have no reason to believe that Scherzer would just spew nonsense. And since the owners haven’t negotiated in good faith up until this point, it’s not shocking that they would have stretched the truth.

Alex Wood has also been vocal throughout the lockout, and shared his disdain for the league’ ultimatums, and canceling games instead of working harder to reach an agreement. It’s clear the players want to play — they just don’t want to sell out for it.

Talks apparently continued between the two sides into Wednesday evening, hoping to discuss the MLBPA’s latest proposal with the draft — even though the “deadline” already passed.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin weighed in and proclaimed that MLB’s antitrust exemption law needs to be reconsidered — making him the second U.S. Senator to call out the league in the last week. Yikes, Rob!

There’s no official word on next steps, or where the talks will lead. Both sides are supposed to talk again on Thursday morning, though I’m not going to let Bob Nightengale get my hopes up again! We can probably assume that unless we see further progress within the next week, MLB will continue to slash and burn its way through April.