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Lockout Day 95: MLBPA submits first new proposal since talks broke down

The union leaves the league disappointed once again, spring games delayed through March 17.

MLB: Lockout The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY N

Representatives from both MLB and the MLBPA met in Manhattan Sunday for the 95th day of the league-instituted lockout, as the union had made a formal written proposal/response to the league. Spring training games have already been canceled through March 17, as well as the first two series of the regular season, leaving the two sides scant time to negotiate and attempt to get a new CBA in place before additional games get canceled.

The same core economic issues that have been creating the most friction were included in the new MLBPA proposal. The MLBPA also included its proposal on other portions that haven’t necessarily have had a formal offer, such as on–field rule changes. According to league spokesman Glen Caplin, the league reportedly did not react positively to MLBPA’s counteroffer (shocker, I know), and we are still nowhere near a deal.

It is extremely clear at this point that the league is going to be upset about literally any proposal that the players submit that isn’t close to a full cave-in from the players, as any realistic counteroffer will require the league to pay more money than they were before. The players’ asks have shrunk in many areas, and MLB considers many of the issues “non-starters,” so no wonder there hasn’t been any progress. Amazing that this non-negotiating tactic hasn’t led to a deal thus far.

MLB has expressed its desire to be able to make on-field changes with a 45-day notice (a pitch clock, larger bases, banning the shift, and more), which the players have been hesitant to fully agree to anything given how negotiations have been progressing. Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reported that MLBPA’s offer included small updates to the pre-arbitration bonus pool, proposed three on-field changes for 2023, and amateur draft lottery picks. There were no new suggestions from the players onthe CBT, which has been a big issue between the two parties.

Collective Bargaining/Luxury Tax

  • MLBPA: $238 million in 2022, increasing to $273 million by 2026
  • MLB: $220 million in 2022, increasing to $230 million by 2026

Pre-arbitration Bonus Pool

  • MLBPA: $80 million (down from $85 million)
  • MLB: $30 million

Amateur Draft Lottery

  • MLBPA: 6 picks
  • MLB: 5 picks

Minimum Salary

  • MLBPA: $725,000 + $20,000/year through 2024, 2025-2026 based on CPI
  • MLB: $675,000 + $10,000/year through 2026

The on-field changes have come up more frequently in discussions over the last week or so. Updating rule changes to improve the game has seemingly been a long time coming, as the average length of game time has increased over the years, making it hard to keep a fan’s attention for three-plus hours. The pitch clock has been used in the minor leagues for the last couple seasons, and have seen success in decreasing the average game time by about 20 minutes, as reported by Jesse Rogers from ESPN. The proposed change would allow pitchers 14 seconds with bases empty, and up to 19 with runners on. MLB also had brought up robot umps, though this was not included in MLBPA’s Sunday’s proposal.

MLB also has brought up the Rule 5 draft, and are angling to cancel it this year, which would lead a neutral observer to conclude that the league wants to throw every possible player benefit into the negotiating pool, which is another bad-faith bargaining ploy.

During negotiations during last week’s meetings in Jupiter, the league and union apparently agreed to a 12-team, expanded playoff. The league has previously been pushing for 14 teams, but the players have not been thrilled about the idea of letting half of the league into the playoffs. The idea is not off of the table, however, as it could potentially help them negotiate in other important areas, such as the luxury tax. MLBPA’s proposal included an option for a 14-team postseason, though they are still pushing for a five-game first round, incorporating a “ghost win” for the higher seeds. Ghost wins are a weird concept, and it doesn’t seem like the league is going to go for them anyways.

It’s obvious that MLB and the players are still having a staring contest with the CBT, and they are clearly still far apart from a deal. Bob Nightengale showcased the difference between the two sides and where they stand on core economic issues, even mentioning that they are “$137 million apart over the next five years.” This makes it sound like the difference is a significant issue; however, with the $50 million difference for the bonus pool, and the cost difference between the two CBT proposals, MLB would be able to offset a lot of these costs with the additional projected postseason revenue. The total of $137 million over five years is just more than $27 million per year, so the players’ proposal would add on ~$77 million/year for these two portions of the agreement. Mind you, the league stands to make an additional $100 million-plus from expanded playoffs and jersey advertising (JUST in 2022). What the players are asking for is a drop in the bucket in a $10 billion industry.

The union continues to be increasingly frustrated with the way the league is treating the negotiations, as their proposals do not reflect that they care about the players or the game in general. Players argued that they have made concessions in several areas, notably decreased some of their financial asks, and the league refuses to budge in several areas.

All of the issues cited above are wins for the owners, and even taking the MLBPA’s latest offer, right now, would still be a win for the owners.

We will have to see how MLB responds, however we can probably assume we are not close to a deal. There are not yet plans for meetings Monday, though ideally the two sides continue to meet and show some urgency to get the season started.