After a 16-hour day of meetings that stretched into early Tuesday morning, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association moved the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement that would save regular-season games from being canceled to 5 p.m. ET Tuesday.
While the sides made progress toward a new deal during the marathon negotiating session, which included more than a dozen meetings and wrapped for the night around 2:30 a.m. ET, gaps remain between the sides on the competitive-balance tax thresholds, minimum salary and bonus pool for pre-arbitration player, sources said. Also on the table: the implementation of an international draft.
“We want to exhaust every possibility to get a deal done,” a league spokesman said.
The sides plan to resume talks at 11 a.m. ET.
After setting a Monday deadline for a deal to salvage a March 31 Opening Day following the league’s Dec. 2 lockout of players, MLB made significant moves Monday and early Tuesday, bumping the CBT threshold to $220 million, the minimum salary to $675,000 and the bonus pool to $25 million, according to sources. The union long had pursued a CBT threshold of $245 million, a minimum salary of $775,000 and a bonus pool of $115 million, though the continued meetings Tuesday illustrate its willingness to move off its demands. The union also dropped its proposal to increase the number of arbitration-eligible players with two years’ service from 22%.
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The league had offered players a $700,000 minimum and $40 million bonus pool if the players accepted playoff expansion to 14 teams, but fears of teams’ ability to sneak into the playoffs with mediocre records and the potential for that to impede spending prompted the players to seek a 12-team postseason with lower minimums and pools, sources said.
In talks that began Monday, the sides met for a 13th time with a session that started after 2 a.m. ET Tuesday as the lockout reached its 90th day. Commissioner Rob Manfred, who has said losing regular-season games would be a “disastrous outcome,” met with the union twice — once more than he had previously since the lockout began. After months of talks in fits and starts, the sides shifted into possible dealmaking mode.
“We’re working at it,” Manfred said around 6 p.m. ET after his second session of the day with the union.
Deputy commissioner Dan Halem and executive vice president Morgan Sword were key figures in the meetings. Some sessions lasted mere minutes and also included senior vice president Pat Houlihan.
Owners and players initially converged Feb. 21 at the spring training site of the St. Louis Cardinals, holding face-to-face meetings for eight straight days. Players were led by union chief Tony Clark and lead negotiator Bruce Meyer and were joined by executive subcommittee members, including Max Scherzer and Andrew Miller, as well as rank-and-file members.
Progress had been minimal after the league locked players out, preferring not to play while negotiating a new deal, a departure from the last time the sides experienced a work stoppage in 1994, when games were played as normal without a collective bargaining agreement until the players decided to strike in August. The rest of that season was canceled, including the most lucrative time of the year for the league: the postseason. The current work stoppage is the second longest in the game’s history after 1994-95.
The sides have been far apart on the core economic issues after owners made significant gains in the past two CBAs. Average player salaries have declined for four consecutive years, leaving players looking for increases at every level, including minimum pay as well as a raise in the CBT.
The league’s proposal includes a flattening of the CBT for the first three years of the deal and bumps to $224 million and $230 million in the final two years. MLB also acceded to the union’s request for the same tax rates as the last basic agreement: 20% for up to $20 million over the threshold, 32.5% for $20 million to $40 million over and 62.5% for anything more than $40 million over.
The union has prepared for the loss of paychecks, providing $5,000 for members in February and March. That figure would increase in April. Player contracts are normally paid in-season only. The union’s war chest will provide a stipend until a deal is reached.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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