JUPITER, Florida – Like the “Party of Five” episode when Julia and Griffin, their marriage on the rocks, took a romantic vacation in hopes of rekindling a flame for them, owners and players of Major League Baseball gathered at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Field on Monday to continue their discussions toward a new basic agreement A little trip to the Sunshine State after more than a month of largely fruitless discussions in New York.
Sadly, like Julia and Griffin, both sides learned on Monday that palm trees can’t bridge fundamental differences, as the owners’ role in proposing mods has disappointed players, according to an industry source. However, this couple will continue to chase it until they find common ground, whether or not it’s time for a full season.
Kick off this round of negotiations in Florida has produced some exciting visuals, like Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor (sort of) appearing in public for the first time since they became teammates of the Mets and a handful of anxious fans who joined some media to share the proceedings. And sure enough, the time they spent together, on the same grounds – over an hour of bargaining, followed by nearly three hours of players and owners huddling together, and then almost another 35 minutes of bargaining before they parted for the day. They felt a lot better than their 15-minute session last week at the MLB Headquarters in Manhattan. Moreover, they will return to him directly on Tuesday after the owners agreed to the players’ request to meet here so Scherzer and his teammates can continue training in pre-season.
However, the reality is that players and owners face miles and miles before they can party and relax. And another seven days, according to the owners’ calendar, to complete the deal before jeopardizing the opening day scheduled for March 31.
On Monday, the counter-angel proposed on two fronts:
1. Regarding the bonus pool for players before judging, they raised their bid from $15 million to $20 million, covering 30 high achieving players in that pool. The Players Pack requires $115 million to go to 150 of these players. Complicating matters further, players want to expand arbitration for players between two and three years of service, from the top 22 percent of that category to the top 80 percent. The owners insist that they will not compromise on the status quo in this matter.
2. They expanded their draft lottery from the top three picks, ensuring that the worst team would not pick less than the fourth, to the top four picks. Players want to see eight lotteries.
So Tuesday will be the players’ turn to the standoff, and the main element of interest to baseball’s business pros will be whether they budge on their vision of the luxury tax. Players view this as a top priority and are very upset with the owners’ proposal, which includes harsher penalties for overshooting and a smaller increase from 2021 to 2026 than they just experienced from 2016 to 2021.
Scherzer and Lindor both serve on the PA Executive Subcommittee, and their Mets teammate Brandon Nemo, as well as Yankees player Jameson Tellon, have also appeared as part of a 10-man squad. Tony Clark, CEO of the PA, also sat down in the negotiations after not doing so in the Manhattan sessions; His counterpart shutdown commissioner Rob Manfred was not present. The MLB side featured a pair of actual owners, the Rockies’ Dick Monfort and the Padres’ Ron Fowler.
Lindor is among those expected on Tuesday, and we’ll see how attendance swings and flows through this critical week. Whether the high energy revealed on Monday can continue while leading to more substantive progress.
At least, members of both sides smiled at the sun. If it is not counted as a burning torch, it can be interpreted as an acknowledgment that the time has come and they are willing to put it in hours. Now all they have to do is make the most of those hours.