The Clock Is Ticking, but M.L.B. and its Players Remain Apart
Players have sought a series of improvements: getting younger players compensated sooner, creating ways for players to reach salary arbitration and free agency sooner, raising luxury tax thresholds (from $210 million to $245 million), reducing revenue sharing by $100 million, curbing service time manipulation, and forcing teams to be more competitive through a handful of measures, including changes to the amateur draft (a draft lottery for the top eight picks).
Owners, though, feel baseball players have the best deal in professional sports — M.L.B. is the only one of the four major North American professional leagues without a salary cap. M.L.B. Commissioner Rob Manfred drew some of the league’s lines in the sand last month, saying there would be no changes to revenue sharing or the amount of time it takes for a player to reach free agency. He also characterized the union’s requests as “collectively the most extreme set of proposals in their history.”
Among M.L.B.’s past proposals, some of which have been rejected by the union: a club payroll floor ($100 million) along with a lower luxury tax threshold ($180 million) — or more modest luxury tax threshold increases (starting with $214 million) without a floor but with steeper penalties for going over; elimination of draft pick compensation, which penalizes teams for signing top free agent players; an overhaul of the salary arbitration system; smaller increases to league minimum salaries, and making free agency based on age (29.5) instead of service time (six years).
(There has been some common ground between the sides on matters like a universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs, although M.L.B. has proposed a 14-team format and the union has called for 12.)
Over the course of the lockout, the sides met twice before Thursday, but those meetings were to discuss matters not concerning the major economic obstacles. The C.B.A. is a large document that governs everything in the sport — from the length of the season to roster sizes to the domestic violence policy to the economic structure — so there is a lot to agree upon.
Deals often arise when deadlines are speeding closer. M.L.B. and the players already blew past the Dec. 1 expiration of the C.B.A. The next pressure point is mid-February, when pitchers and catchers are expected to report to camp in Arizona and Florida.
Players aren’t missing out on any paychecks in the off-season, nor would they in spring training, when they get allowances. Paychecks begin when the regular season does. During the lockout, there is supposed to be no contact between team officials and players, and players are not allowed at club facilities. Hundreds of free agent players remain unsigned, including stars like Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa.
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