Baseball’s first bargaining session in 43 days featured civility and ingenuity… and scant optimism that the labor dispute would end anytime soon.
Over a video conference Thursday, Major League Baseball’s representatives introduced a new economic proposal that revised the industry’s arbitration system, created a process that would incentivize teams to promote young players and tweaked a previous proposal for a draft lottery. The MLB Players Association, locked out by commissioner Rob Manfred since Dec. 2 (the day after their last meeting), came away underwhelmed by the proposal and will evaluate where to go from here.
An agreement needs to be in place by approximately Feb. 1 to avoid a delay of spring training, which is scheduled to start in the middle of the month, and then by approximately March 1 in order to not impact the regular season, which is scheduled to begin on March 31.
According to an industry source, MLB introduced these three offers on Thursday:
1. The “Super 2” arbitration class, which includes players in the top 22 percent of service time between two and three years would be eradicated over time (anyone currently with major league service could still utilize arbitration as a Super 2) so that all players between two and three years of service would have their salaries determined by a formula based on performance. The total dollars going to this class would increase. The players profess to actually value arbitration, which pits the two sides against each other in a hearing.
2. In an attempt to thwart service-time manipulation, teams would be rewarded draft picks if they promoted top prospects who subsequently drew support for the sport’s major awards. For example, under this idea, the 2019 Mets would have received an extra pick (either amateur or international, if the latter becomes a reality) after Pete Alonso won the National League Rookie of the Year. That would stay in play, with a maximum of one pick per player, until the player reaches arbitration.
3. The draft lottery still would put the top three picks (for the worst three teams) in play, as per MLB’s previous proposal, although it would further remove incentives for clubs to live in the basement. The PA has proposed that the top eight picks be subject to the lottery.
The PA would like to see more of its players eligible for free agency and arbitration and prefers a 12-team postseason to MLB’s 14-team idea and also would like to see a further increase of the minimum wage. MLB has proposed a modest uptick from the current $ 570,500.
Despite their philosophical disagreements as well as some obvious personal animus that exists between the two sides, the session was said to be amicable.