To the shock of absolutely nobody, not even the most optimistic baseball fans, reports emerged Thursday that the latest bargaining session between MLB and MLB Players Association representatives amid the ongoing lockout largely went nowhere and offered little hope that spring training will start on time next month.
There's now more information about what separates the sides as the halfway point of January approaches.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, league owners remain against lowering the service-time requirement for players to hit free agency and, ideally, cash-in on the open market:
MLB remans dead set against lowering free agency from 6 years to 5. Part of the concern stems from the history of the big stars jumping from smaller markets to big markets when they hit free agency and belief this would hurt competitive balance.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2022
Players side suggests they are very disappointed there was no change in the CBT (luxury tax threshold). But MLB position is that this offer was merely made to address the issue of younger player pay and to get the ball rolling and they will negotiate on CBT and free agency later.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2022
MLB offered a formula to provide more money to players with 2-plus years of service time in attempt to address concern about younger stars being vastly underpaid. The increased offer in minimum salary from $570,500 to $600K in 2022 (then scaled up in ‘23, etc.) has been on table.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2022
While MLB sees significant increased money for 2-plus players with the proposed formula, players side sees even this move as incremental at best. 22 arbitration slots would be removed and replaced by the formula. https://t.co/wzEWvRltQz— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2022
Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith added:
Also heard MLB owners offered a potential solution to service time manipulation in their proposal:— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 13, 2022
•if a highly-ranked prospect (within top 150 on prospect lists) plays a full year and finishes top five for a major award like MVP, Cy, RoY his team would get a bonus draft pick
It's not all bad news, depending on one's view of the situation, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the owners and players seem close to agreeing on a universal designated hitter:
universal DH was proposed and seems ok for both sides, I'm told. unless tied to something else as a bargaining chip, almost assuredly would go through.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 13, 2022
That doesn't, however, mean fans should expect any teases for an end of the work stoppage anytime soon:
Giants player rep Austin Slater tells me: “There's a lot of frustration from players and I think there's a willingness to ride this out as long as it takes to get a fair agreement.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 13, 2022
“It’s hard to say right now, but with the league making proposals that eliminate fundamental player rights, it is making this process more difficult, and I think hardening the stance of the players.”— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 13, 2022
Bottom line, as viewed by some on the MLBPA side: today’s proposals from MLB featured incremental changes and lacked urgency.— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 13, 2022
Not necessarily a surprise that on Jan. 13 negotiations are moving slowly. Also far from ideal.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale also wrote "the union and several high-ranking players were unimpressed with the new proposals," and that MLB expects the MLBPA to make a counteroffer at some point next week. Currently, players are scheduled to report for spring training on Feb. 16, and Nightengale noted the sides likely will need to come to an agreement before or on March 5 to avoid potentially losing regular-season games.
Opening Day is set for March 31, but that's merely wishful thinking at this point of the process.