On Monday representatives from the owners and Major League Baseball met with the Players Association. On top of the normal crew that has been at the meetings the entire time, there were a handful of players (including Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray) that showed up in person and more via zoom, and several owners were also present.

Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported that the meeting today saw a new proposal of sorts from the owners side. The owners upped the pre-arbitration bonus pool from their original $5M number, to $10, and then $15M in previous discussions to $20M this time around. The players number on that in their last offer was $115M, leaving the gap between the two sides still massively different. But it’s not just the dollar numbers that are different, the owners proposal has that bonus pool going to just the top 30 players that are not yet arbitration eligible while the players proposed pool would go to the top 150 players who are not yet arbitration eligible.

The other part of the proposal that changed on the side of the owners was the “draft lottery” that’s similar to what the NBA has. It’s hope is to encourage teams to not try and tank for the #1 draft pick. The players have proposed that the top 8 picks are all lottery picks. Owners originally proposed the top 3 spots, but on Monday offered up the top 4 spots.

Those are the two areas where things got a little bit closer, at least sort of. But not everything went in the right direction, either. In their last offer the owners wanted to have the right to set minor league roster limits to 150 players in each organization or less. It’s currently at 180. Tied in with that, the owners also offered to limit the number of times a player can be optioned in a season to 5. Last year there were multiple players who were optioned back and forth more than 10 times. Ownership pulled those from this proposal. As pointed out by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, pulling this does not mean that ownership won’t attempt to change the number of players in the farm system in the future without consent from the MLBPA.

The two biggest issues on the table that the two sides are furthest apart on are the luxury tax numbers – both the limit of the tax as well as the penalties for going over it – as well as the minimum salary for players in the big leagues. Neither of those were discussed on Monday. Ownership made the last offer on the luxury tax numbers and is waiting for the players side to make a counter proposal there.

Meetings are expected to resume on Tuesday, and as things are set for now, the rest of the week. The players are expected to make a counter proposal in the afternoon. MLB has set an artificial deadline of February 28th for a new agreement and for the owners to lift the lockout in order to have the season begin on time (March 31st).

30 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Micro-movement is movement, though a lot of things still seem very far apart. I supposed we can take some heart in the fact that they are talking. I’m really not optimistic about this coming to a satisfactory conclusion quickly. I still think we’re going to lose a lot of MLB games this season.

    • Tom Reeves

      Micro movement is definitely movement.

      The parameters of the negotiation are set. The biggest moves are made earlier and then each side will make smaller and smaller moves until there’s a breakthrough. Each side is trying to create some leverage but they’re about equal. The owners can hurt the players pay and the players can hurt the owners revenue. Neither play is harm free for both sides.

      So, we just need the process to play out and there should be baseball being played on the other side of this mess.

  2. Andy

    I’d rather have baseball’s economic/competitive issues fixed than start season on time. I don’t care if players or owners “win”. Reds will be mediocre or bad until MLB gets NFL style revenue sharing.

  3. SultanofSwaff

    As a fan of the game in general, I fear the the biggest issue that won’t get addressed when this ends is the competitive balance and parity. I guess that puts me in the camp with the player’s union. To me, parity is what creates buzz and interest and grows the game. The NFL and NBA have structured themselves to make parity a feature not an afterthought.

    • Michael

      @sultan

      Excellent point. Especially the NFL which outside the Lions has been very balanced. Hell even the Bengals have been relevant for a chunk of the last 2 decades.

      • Mark Moore

        The Lions did great … wait … that was their former star QB who performed well.

    • Votto4life

      Agreed. If they don’t address competitive balance I don’t care if the two sides ever reach an agreement.

      If they don’t address competitive balance in this contract the Reds are facing another lost decade.

    • Old Big Ed

      Sultan, to me, the players’ position on the CBT will further skew competitive balance. The players want to raise the 2022 threshold to $245 million, with the owners at $214 (and they are further apart on the out years). The MLBPA also proposes lower the “tax” or penalty for a team’s exceeding that limit.

      The players’ position would almost certainly result in the Yankees, Dodgers, etc. spending about $30 million more per year, which would mean one more super free agent going to the higher revenue teams, or two $15 million players on those teams. Plus, the “tax” amounts are spread to the smaller-revenue teams, and thus the Royals of the world would receive less when the Dodgers or Mets spend over the threshold.

      The MLBPA proposal certainly helps the high-end free agents and the high-revenue teams, but it would almost certainly make it more difficult for the low-revenue teams to field competitive teams on a regular basis.

      MLB is vastly different than the NFL, because the NFL’s primary source of revenue is the national TV contracts, which pay the teams about $250 million/year, whereas baseball’s national contracts pay each team about $60 million. Baseball teams can generate more local revenue per team than the NFL teams generally can, but the Yankees generate probably 10 times more local revenue (tickets and local broadcast rights) than the Reds can.

      A lot of the “excess” Yankee revenue is thrown into the revenue-sharing pool. That is fair, because (1) the Yankees aren’t playing intrasquad games, but instead the Royals, so they need to reimburse the other teams for the money those games generate; and (2) it is in the entire industry’s interest that all 30 teams have a general chance to compete for a championship on at least a semi-regular basis. Fans won’t support a league where 18 teams never have a chance, and players do better overall if their are 30 bidders for their services as opposed to 8 bidders.

      So, they have to walk a fine line on the CBT and revenue-sharing issues. There is no point in the Mets’ trying to increase local revenue by $100 million/year, if they were forced to share every cent of it. But there is equally no point in allowing the Mets to hold so much of that extra revenue that the Marlins or Indians can’t have a fair chance to compete against a team with New York financial clout.

      Everybody does better with a good, fair collective bargaining agreement. They will reach an agreement soon, because everyone at the table knows this.

    • AllTheHype

      The MLBPA “says” they want competitive balance, but pretty much every position they take is opposite of that. That’s not what they really want, or care about.

      Look no further than the MLBPA player reps and you’ll know why….Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, and Marcus Semien. Guys who have huge guaranteed contracts, and want to expand that even more for top players. They are more concerned with raising the limit for top teams so greedy players like themselves can get more, than raising the limit for the bottom tier teams so middling free agents can get more.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        As opposed to the greedy owners who want to cap spending on players while also not even keeping the minimum salary in line with inflation, much less with the massive growth in revenue?

        The players solution to competitive balance is to try and force teams to try and win games to make money (lowering the revenue sharing so teams like the Pirates can’t just not even try and still make money hand over first because they get big revenue sharing checks).

      • Redsvol

        Bravo, someone who gets it! Players only care about getting the maximum they can – Scott boras has trained most of the players on the mlbpa executive committee. The more we increase the competitive balance tax, and allow early arbitration the easier it becomes for Yankees, Red Sox and dodgers to own the playoffs. In addition the players fight every change to improve the quality of play and steroid era proved they don’t care about ensuring competitive balance.

        A floor and cap with a lottery driven draft is the closest thing to a win-win negotiation. That, is until the teams adopt a true national tv revenue share.

      • greenmtred

        As opposed to the owners? The owners, dripping with generosity and the milk of human kindness? The owners, who only care about the fans and the health of the game?

    • Stock

      Actually this puts you on the owners side of the fence.

      The players want to reduce revenue sharing and thus increase the gap between big market teams and small market teams.

      The players want to dramatically increase the cap witch only impacts the big market teams.

      If the players get their way the Dodger’s payroll will be 3 times that of the Reds and 4 to 5 times that of a team such as Tampa Bay.

  4. LDS

    Just as voters have the final say in politics, fans have the final say on the future of specific baseball teams. If the ownership doesn’t want to compete, don’t support the team. Making more rules for revenue sharing and the like is like expecting the government to fix all our problems. Sooner or later, we have to do so ourselves.

    • JayTheRed

      This is one of the reasons that after all this money talk is done and the Reds do very little to improve themselves before the season starts. I’ll be leaving this page and stop following the Reds after 32 years of devotion to this team. I’ve said it before with media these days being what it is you can watch closely almost any team you like. Personally, for me I love the direction the Blue Jays have been building the past few years.

      If by some miracle this team gets better, I’ll stick around a longer. Oh, another way I return to the Reds is if the ownership group sells the team.

      • Optimist

        Is it the ownership group, or the managing partner that is the issue? IIRC the group has been relatively stable the past few decades as they’ve rotated they several man again partners. Certainly the managing partner is going to get too distant from the group, but there have been different approaches. I expect Bob only has a year or two left as managing partner, so I’m waiting to see who succeeds him.

    • Stock

      if the owners can’t field a team that can compete because of financial limitations then fans will lose interest and not show up even more. Then small market teams will have less money and before you know it you have 8 teams that win 100+ games every year and 8 teams that win 40-50 games every year.

      As is now large market teams have won the last 6 WS.

  5. Bred

    If the Players Associations can’t bargain for MiLB players, how does the number of minor league players come into play?
    All the negotiations are about splitting the money. I think other issues like pace of play, on field action that has vanished from the past irritations of the game, TV is making decisions that hurt the game with the late playoff start times that push the Central and Eastern time zone fans to watch until midnight or later, and too many strikeouts and not enough singles. There used to be more base hits per game than Ks. Rule changes need to be addressed that increase action and excitement. The NFL has done a recreated itself with rule changes that make the game more exciting. Woody Hayes’ game of three yards and a cloud of dust does not look like today’s game. Exciting games and parity have the NFL at the top of all sports. MLB needs to wake up. The 3 outcome game is slow and not as exciting as the game was in the past.

    • Doug Gray

      In my opinion the owners offered that up because they knew the players would say no, then they wouldn’t offer it the next time around and say to the public: See, we made a concession!

      The public, not knowing how this works by-and-large, doesn’t know that both sides have to agree on even talking about this kind of thing in the deal that as soon as the MLBPA said no to it it’s not really in the negotiation anymore.

  6. MK

    Not sure minimum salary, which now seems fairly generous should be something to hold the game up over. It especially isn’t something the players should want to make a public display over, when trying to get the minimum per hour rate increased in the real world.

  7. MBS

    I don’t get how the players can say don’t tank, but don’t support a salary cap and floor. If you want an even playing field you need an even payroll. I get wanting their fair share of revenue, we all want that from our jobs. Also I’m not on either side here, but this pre arb bonus pool seems like the players are being unreasonable on this one to. Just so you don’t think I’m on the owners side, I think the books should be open, if not to the public, to the players union, so they can negotiate with actual numbers. I also think the way minor leaguers are paid is atrocious.

    • BK

      All of the teams must submit their financial records to MLBPA annually and MLBPA has the right to audit them under the current CBA. Some will argue that teams can shield revenue from this disclosure via related real estate deals (for example, Cubs own many of the buildings across from Wrigley field and sell access on gamedays and benefit from bar/food sales, too) and some teams own part of the regional sports networks that have their local broadcast rights. This is covered on pages 130-148 in the CBA which is available on the internet.

    • Redsvol

      @mbs – no, you get it just fine. The players don’t care to understand what the state of their sport is – the haves and the have-nots and the system that keeps it status quo. The players don’t care about competitive balance and are totally unrealistic. The owners have given on practically every point in these negotiations. If you don’t believe me, go look at what they started with and compare to the latest proposal. The players have barely or not moved on each point.

      • Jimbo44CN

        Agree 100%. I think someone else was correct in saying that the player reps were all trained by Boras. It’s hard to be on the side of the players when they have some making close to a 1/2 Billion dollars. Guaranteed! OMG

      • greenmtred

        The owners are far more wealthy than the players. Do any of the owners even rely on their MLB hobby to provide their main source of income?

  8. Tar Heel Red

    I agree with Redsvol in that the players don’t care about the state of the game. As it is MLB is already heavily stacked toward large market teams and if the players get their way on the CBT the gap will be even bigger. They like to complain about teams tanking, but continue to want more and more money. Small markets teams…the Royals, Reds, Brewers, Rays, Marlins, etc… cannot compete with large market teams for the majority of free agents (or contract extensions) forcing small market teams to do so to stay in business.
    If MLB is not careful the golden goose will soon be cooked and the only teams to be competative will be in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philly.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Correct, and then what? These non competitive small market franchises will be sold to whom? Vegas(ughhh) Tokyo? Bejing? They would have the money I assume.

  9. Frankie Tomatoes

    It amazes me that people out there think that the owners are being reasonable and it’s the players who are being unreasonable.

    The owners are making more than ever and the gap between MLB revenue, player salaries, and the luxury tax threshold keeps getting wider. Source: https://twitter.com/BizballMaury/status/1489640750056816640

    Despite that gap widening, the owners want to basically not raise the luxury tax threshold and make the penalties for going over it massively more punitive than they were in the last cba. They have offered small raises to the league minimum that doesn’t keep up with inflation from 2021 to 2022, and then is less than 1% each year after that. They offered the bonus pool to 30 players in pre-arbitration that they eventually said could be for $15MM.

    The owners are offering breadcrumbs in some areas and downright going backwards on the luxury tax threshold while also trying to get 14 playoff teams so they can get big time additional playoff tv money where the split between the players and owners is overwhelmingly in favor of the owners.

    Doug had a chart the other day about the difference between a million and a billion dollars. https://twitter.com/dougdirt24/status/1494914087549079554

    In order for a player to become a millionaire they need to have played about 3 full seasons, which is about $1.6MM. After taxes and agent fees and stuff like that, they’re probably technically a millionaire in terms of net worth.

    62% of the league makes league minimum.

    There aren’t two sides to this. The players are right. They deserve more. As Joe Sheehan has shown several times – if the owners accepted every single thing the players asked for right now they would still make more money on this cba than the last one. https://twitter.com/joe_sheehan/status/1496984131808514051

    I do not have much hope that a deal is struck before Monday night. But I do like to dream and sometimes dreams turn into reality.