MLB negotiations are on the way as lockdown continues

JUPITER, Florida – For more than five hours here on Monday, many of baseball’s most important people gathered at Roger Dean Stadium, home of the spring practice of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins.

Spring training, which was supposed to begin last week, has yet to start because Major League Baseball closed players on December 2 and a new working agreement has yet to be reached. The start of the 2022 regular season on schedule — scheduled for March 31 — hangs in the balance.

Sensing the growing urgency, the two sides agreed to meet in Florida this week – possibly all week if talks prove fruitful – beginning on Monday. Although the MLB is making gradual moves in the direction of the players and there are still many hurdles, the two sides noted the usefulness of talking face to face and agreed to meet again on Tuesday.

MLB’s most recent proposal included relatively modest tweaks in two issues: increasing the size of the bounty pool for players not yet eligible to referee (from $15 million to $20 million for 30 players) and increasing the number of amateur selections to be decided by lottery (from the top three to the top three places). the first four). The federation proposed a $115 million bounty package for 150 players and a draft lottery for the top eight picks.

Other key areas where there are significant gaps include league minimum salaries, the luxury tax and its penalties, the revenue-sharing system between clubs and the number of players eligible for salary arbitration. MLB has repeatedly insisted it will not touch the last two clauses, both of which the league has sought to change or expand.

On Monday, the two sides met for hours but longer in party meetings between themselves. Not only were the MLB’s bargaining teams and the players’ union in attendance, but so were 10 players and two club owners. The owners were Dick Monfort, of the Colorado Rockies, and Ron Fowler, of the San Diego Padres. Monfort is chair of the MLB Labor Committee and Fowler is a former chair.

The players present, all of whom hold leading positions in the league: Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nemo of the Mets; Jameson Tellon of the Yankees, Brent Sutter of the Milwaukee Brewers, Wyatt Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals, Sonny Gray of the Cincinnati Reds, Taylor Rogers of the Minnesota Twins, Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals and Jason Castro of the Houston Astros. Other players joined in-guild breakout sessions via Zoom.

Although several recent bargaining sessions were held in New York, where both MLB and the union are headquartered, those talks have been moved elsewhere. The MLB accommodated the union’s request to meet in Florida, where a large number of players live in the off-season.

A potential week of talks in New York would have made it difficult for the players to continue training, hitting and throwing. Because arrangements were finalized late last week and Monday was a holiday, it was not possible to secure a hotel for the negotiation sessions. So the parties turned to the meeting spaces of Roger Dean’s unused stadium.

Before the first meeting indoors at 1 p.m. on Monday, federation officials and players gathered in a stadium parking lot. Throughout the afternoon, as many as two dozen fans or autograph seekers stood outside the gates. Two people arrived with a sign that read:We want baseball!

Overall, the federation has been seeking a series of improvements to the sport’s economic structure, aiming to help younger players, improve competition between teams, reduce service time manipulation and inject more spending. Despite this, the league believes that players have a fair system without a strict salary cap and sees it as a matter of wealth distribution – star players disproportionately controlling more than others.

If both sides want to avoid changing the regular season schedule, this week could be crucial.

On Friday, the MLB announced the start of the spring training games, which were originally scheduled for February 26, were postponed “until no before” March 5. Earlier this month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said losing regular season games would be “disastrous.” For the industry.

He also noted that a minimum four-week spring training period – two weeks shorter than usual – made sense to avoid a spike in infections, such as those that preceded the shortened 2020 regular season for the pandemic. As a result, the MLB’s stated preference for a new collective bargaining agreement is February 28.