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Major League Baseball and locked-out players talked for 95 minutes on the 95th day of the lockout, largely restating their positions and showing no sign of a breakthrough that could get their derailed season back on track.
Trying to resolve baseball’s second-longest labor stoppage, the sides remain far apart on luxury tax, minimum salaries and the proposed bonus pool for pre-arbitration eligible players. The union lowered its starting point for the bonus pool by $5 million to $80 million but left its proposals for the luxury tax and minimum salary unchanged.
After the main session, Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem and union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer held a one-on-one session. Players suggested the sides meet again Monday, and MLB told the union it would get back with a decision on whether to meet.
Commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday canceled the first two series of the season for each team, a total of 91 games. This was the first meeting since then, coming in the first season delayed by labor strife since 1995.
Among the few areas with new proposals, players said a fast-track competition committee should include four union appointees, six management members and one umpire. The group would consider rules changes for no earlier than 2023 covering a pitch clock, limiting defensive shifts and using larger bases, and it would be able to recommend changes during the offseason with 45 days’ notice.
MLB last week proposed that the committee include six management officials, two union representatives and one umpire. Currently, management can only change rules with union consent or unilaterally with one year of notice.
Players said they will not allow the committee to consider one topic MLB asked to be included: robots to call balls and strikes.
Following a four-day break in talks, the union gave a written response to the owners’ latest proposal that had led to a breakdown on the ninth day of meetings in Jupiter, Florida.
Players offered to increase the postseason from 10 teams to 12 but said they are willing to discuss management’s desire for 14 if MLB would consider a “ghost win” first round, which management isn’t interested in.
Players want to raise the luxury tax threshold from $210 last season to $238 million this year, $244 million in 2023, $250 million in 2024, $256 million in 2025 and $263 million in 2026. MLB is at $220 million in each of the next three seasons, $224 million in 2025 and $230 million in 2026.
Tax rates would remain unchanged and direct amateur draft pick compensation for free agents would be eliminated.
The union lowered its plan for the pre-arbitration bonus pool to $80 million from $85 million, with $5 million annual increases. MLB last offered $30 million, up from $25 million, with no annual increase.
As part of an overall agreement, players agreed to withdraw their proposed expansion of salary arbitration for players with at least two years of service but less than three.
Players maintained their proposed minimum salary at $725,000 this year, $745,000 in 2023, $765,000 in 2024 and increases during the following two years based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners. Owners have offered $700,000, with $10,000 annual increases.
For players assigned to the minors and signing a second or later big league contract, MLB is at a $99,400 minimum this year, $101,400 in 2023, $103,400 in 2024, $105,500 in 2025 and $106,600 in 2026, while players are at $118,200, $121,400 and $124,700, followed by cost-of-living increases.
For those in the minors on a first big league contract, MLB is at $49,800 with $1,000 annual increases, while players are at $59,500 for this year followed by $61,100, $62,700 and cost-of-living increases.
Players rejected MLB’s proposal for an international draft and remained at the top six picks for the proposed amateur draft lottery, one more than MLB.
Players also want to cut back on MLB’s proposed international games that include Mexico City; Melbourne, Australia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and South Korea.