Sliver of home emerges from latest MLB labor talks


The littlest hope has begun to emerge from Major League Baseball’s labor strife. That marks a notable upgrade from the previous status of no hope.

MLB bigwigs met with their MLB Players Association counterparts on Monday afternoon at the MLBPA’s Manhattan headquarters, and the owners came away pleased that the players withdrew their proposal that granted earlier free agency for some older members of their group who had not yet achieved the sufficient six years’ service time. While the PA still yearns to nudge that needle — perhaps in the form of bumping up the service time of someone who wins Rookie of the Year honors while not clocking a full year — the industry’s fundamental system of waiting six years to enter the open market now appears intact.

Furthermore, the two sides agreed to meet again on Tuesday, an indication of the calendar’s urgency, and MLB intends to counter with some new ideas. A new collective bargaining agreement would need to be completed in about the next week in order for spring training to begin on time in mid-February. That appears a long shot despite Monday’s relatively good cheer. With Opening Day set for March 31, March 1 stands as the approximate deadline for a deal to get done in order for the regular season to start as scheduled.

MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem (c.), arrives for a meeting in New York on Monday.
AP

In a session that one MLB official described as spirited — most meetings between these specific participants tend to feature much yelling and the like — and lasted about 2 hours and 15 minutes, the union also modified its proposal for revenue sharing, going from a $100 million cut to approximately $30 million. MLB has insisted to the PA that it will not budge on the issues of the revenue-sharing pie, the free-agency clock and expanding the pool of players eligible for arbitration.

Deputy commissioner Dan Halem, MLB’s lead negotiator, led the owners’ negotiating group, which also featured executive vice president Morgan Sword, senior vice president Patrick Houlihan and Rockies CEO Dick Monfort, a member of commissioner Rob Manfred’s labor policy committee. On the players’ side, senior director Bruce Meyer led the way, flanked by general counsel Ian Penny, deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum and player representative Andrew Miller, the former Yankees reliever.

The players did not express much enthusiasm for the owners’ most recent proposals made on Jan. 13, which featured an idea to do away with the “Super 2” arbitration class while giving more money overall to those with between two and three years’ service; draft-pick rewards for clubs that promote their top prospects for Opening Day and see them thrive; and a draft lottery for all non-playoff teams that would put the top three picks in play and also prevent clubs from selecting in the top three for three straight seasons.

The players would like a lottery that puts the top eight picks in play — in other words, a system in which the industry’s worst team would be ensured of no worse than the ninth-overall pick, whereas that club would be guaranteed at least the fourth-overall selection in the owners’ idea.

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