MLB Lockout Negotiation Week: Notes from Tuesday

Reportedly, MLB and the MLBPA will meet every day this week in an attempt to come to an agreement before a self-imposed February 28th deadline to ensure the season starts as scheduled on March 31st.

In an attempt to cover the daily happenings, here are updates from Tuesday:

While the tone of the meetings from Monday was reportedly much more civil, little seemed to move from Monday to Tuesday, as the league was underwhelmed by the changes the union presented—if we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard that since December, we may be able to bridge the bonus pool gap.

For just the second time since the lockout began, the sides met on back-to-back days to discuss core economics. Despite a starting time of 1:00 pm, the sides didn’t meet face-to-face until around 1:30 pm, meeting for an hour before withdrawing to their own sides. A two-on-two meeting was held before the sides stopped bargaining around 4:00 pm. The players hung around, consulting until about 5:30 pm.

On the player’s side, they decreased the number of teams included in their lottery proposal from eight to seven. After the owners went from three to four on Monday, the outcome is inching ever closer to…five?

As for their proposed changes to Super 2, the players dropped their ask from 80% of players between 2.000 and 3.000 years of service to 75%. While this is technically a move down, the league is claiming they don’t “have the votes to expand Super 2 beyond the 22%…so the union can ask for any amount above that but it won’t get it.”

The league can say they aren’t going to bargain against this proposal all they want, but it’s clear the players aren’t giving up the extra compensation they are seeking for younger players freely. In a countermove that displeased the league, the players increased their raises to minimum salary from $25,000 per year to $30,000, starting from the same $775,000. This would mean they would end up at $895,000 in 2026, as opposed to $875,000.

In the same way they increased their bonus pool $15 million after dropping their Super 2 ask from essentially 100% to 80%, the union is looking to add salary to points the league is apparently willing to bargain against—bonus pool and minimum salaries—from a point they are claiming they won’t—increased arbitration eligibility.

Basically, the league is saying “you won’t get more money in arbitration”, while the players are saying “okay, but we need to see that money spent somewhere”. Does this end up with a similar or same arbitration system but higher minimums and bonus pool than what MLB is offering?

That seems more fair, but only time will tell.

Despite the league seeing it as their turn, the players made no offers to change their Competitive Balance Tax proposals. It’s hard to say right now, but it’s possible whoever blinks first on their stance may see themselves as the loser in these negotiations.

The league was disappointed with what they considered counterproductive changes by the players, but players believe they were just matching changes made by the league on Monday. It’s becoming (been) obvious that both sides are simply waiting for the other to fold at this point, but it’s possible that may change come the end of the week.

While it wasn’t an official request, the league again suggested third-party mediation, but were turned down a second time. The timing is even more strange now, considering how long it would take a mediator to catch up with the deadline quickly approaching. A mediator is likely going to use the most recent agreement as a strong guide, and it’s an obvious move for the owners to suggest with their desire to keep the status quo, just as it is for the players who are seeking more extensive change to turn it down.

Finally, in news that likely only excites me, the numbers for the increases to minor league minimums for players on major league contracts came out for the player’s proposal: $66,000 for players on their first contract—up from $46,600 in 2021—and $131,200 for players with service or signing a subsequent contract—up from $93,000.

While we don’t know what kind of increases the owners are suggesting, these were apparently increases on top of prior increases in past proposals by the players, much like their minimum salary changes from Tuesday.

While these seem insignificant in the scheme of billions of dollars to be shared, raises of over 40% in salary for a large portion of the union would be significant. Many players are up-and-down during the season—14 at most per team at any given time—and increasing their salary while in the minors is an important outcome for these negotiations.

Based on some quick calculations and estimates, this increased the minor league portion of my 2022 projection by $538,000.

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