Spirited MLB labor talks continue, but major obstacles still exist
Major League Baseball and the players union continued to make slow, incremental progress Tuesday, but the two sides continue to disagree on just how much either is actually moving towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to avert the delay of spring training.
One day after the players union agreed they would no longer seek to change the six-year service-time requirement for free agency, MLB countered by giving up their request to eliminate salary arbitration and keeping the status quo.
The one caveat is that MLB informed the union it would provide $10 million in a performance-bonus pool – funded by central revenues – for players not eligible yet for salary arbitration, which requires three years of service time or ranking among the top 22% among two-year players called the Super 2 class. The top players in the pool who produce the highest WAR statistics and win major awards would receive significant bumps in pay by as much as $385%. Cincinnati Reds infielder Jonathan India, who won the NL Rookie of the Year, would have an increase of pay from $575,000 to $1.193 million while Milwaukee Brewers Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes would be paid $2.34 million after earning $608,000 last season.
The union countered with a bonus pool of $105 million considering that 46% of major league players earned less than 500,000 last season.
MLB also nudged their minimum salary proposal from $600,000 to $615,000 for players with less than one year of service, while paying $700,000 to players with at least one year of service time, $650,000 for players with at least one year of service and $700,000 for at least two years of service. The union, insisting that the raise barely covers the cost-of-living increase, is still seeking a $775,000 minimum salary from the current $570,500 minimum. It also argues that MLB’s minimum salary proposals for non-arbitration eligible players would actually be fixed salaries.
The only other proposal Tuesday by MLB was that it was no longer offering to take away cost-of-living increases to the players’ pension.
The two sides are scheduled to talk again this week on non-core economic issues such as the All-Star Game, international play, drug testing among other items, but the serious economic differences remain.
The union still is waiting for MLB to make a new proposal on the luxury tax after offering to increase it on Dec. 1 from $210 million to $214 million, escalating to $220 million at the end of the five-year CBA. Yet, the union views the proposal as a step backwards since it includes increased penalties (50% tax and surrendering a third-round pick) for crossing the threshold. The union is seeking an increase starting at $245 million with decreased penalties.
The two sides continue to strongly disagree on revenue sharing. MLB wants to keep the status quo while the union was originally seeking a $100 million reduction, before dropping it to $30 million during Monday’s negotiations.
There also was no movement on the implementation of an NBA-style draft lottery to help stop teams from intentionally losing to gain top draft picks. The union still wants the lottery to consist of the top eight picks.
The two sides already agreed to a universal DH with the elimination of draft pick compensation that penalizes teams for signing premier free-agent players. The union also is willing to expand the postseason from 10 teams to 12, but MLB is seeking a 14-team format.
No date is yet set for the next negotiating session on economic issues but just three weeks remain before the start of spring training.
The clock is ticking.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Spirited MLB labor talks continue, but major obstacles still exist