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).