Excitement stirred over the past few weeks as Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association began actually sitting down to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement. While active negotiations are a good thing, it has become increasingly clear that the two sides are incredibly far apart. Don't expect a new CBA, or the start of spring training, any time soon.
Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich wrote an extensive piece on the subject at the Athletic and essentially threw cold water on any optimism about the process. While the sides are closer than they used to be on many major issues, that's not saying much.
For example, the league agreed to the union's proposal of a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. That's good, right? But the two sides are worlds apart on the size of said pool. From the article:
The difference in the amounts proposed for the pool — $10 million by the owners, $105 million by the players — actually is greater than those numbers suggest. The league would make its $10 million available to all 0-to-3 players except the Super Twos who are eligible for arbitration. The union, on the other hand, based its plan on players becoming eligible for arbitration after two years. Thus, the $105 million it requested would go only to 0-to-2 players, a much smaller group.
That's ... not good.
Another bone of contention is the league's minimum salary. Everyone agrees the number needs to go up, but the two sides are nowhere close on how much:
The players have proposed increasing the minimum from $570,500 to $775,000. The owners have proposed that the players will earn $615,000 in their first year, $650,000 in their second and $700,000 in their third. The increase of $44,500 for first-year players would be the largest they have ever received, and $27,500 more than the amount the union negotiated for them in the 2016 CBA. But the union notes the boost is barely above a cost-of-living increase.
Service time manipulation is also a huge problem that must be dealt with. It seems the owners are willing to agree to some kind of change there, but the two sides are nowhere close on an agreement to fix what is an obvious problem.
Several areas have been agreed to. There will almost certainly be a draft lottery in order to prevent tanking -- though the two sides still haven't agreed how to implement it. And it appears we will be getting expanded playoffs, as the owners have made that almost a non-negotiable part of any deal. On top of that, it looks like owners will insist on having ads on jerseys to help raise more revenue.
But the fact that we're this far along and the above issues haven't been sorted out essentially spells doom for the start of spring training, and will likely impact the eventual start of the 2022 season. Pitchers and catchers were due to report on February 15, and while there's some leeway if that date is missed, there's no way we're only a few weeks or a month away from getting a deal done.