Major League Baseball canceled two more series Wednesday, saying the earliest the 2022 season could begin is April 14. This comes as negotiations between owners and players were unable to produce a new labor agreement, although significant progress has been made.
Eight days after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced at a press conference the first two series wouldn’t be played, Manfred said in a released statement that “logistical realities” forced additional games to be “removed from the schedule.” The MLB Players Association said canceling games was “completely unnecessary.”
MLB owners locked out players on Dec. 2 after the expiration of the previous five-year collective bargaining agreement. While games were canceled, negotiations were continuing Wednesday.
International Draft Snag
While both sides had moved closer on the key issue of the competitive balance tax levels, a proposed international draft and the trade-off seemed to be the sticking point in the last 24 hours.
In exchange for the international draft, players were seeking elimination of draft-pick compensation for teams making a qualifying offer, according to numerous reports. The union also wants to get rid of the qualifying offer. But not all players seem to be amenable to the draft.
I was in FL. We never offered the Int’l Draft. We did discuss it, but MLB told us they were NOT going to offer anything for it. At that point, we informed all players & agreed to no draft.
This is MLB muddying the waters & deflecting blame. Fans, pls hang in there with us.
— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) March 10, 2022
Owners felt a deal was so close that they offered the union three options, according to Jessie Rogers of ESPN: 1) eliminate draft-pick compensation and take time to determine the best path for an international draft, 2) no international draft and no draft-pick compensation, and 3) eliminate draft-pick compensation and reconsider the international draft next offseason. The third option would have allowed MLB to reopen the CBA after the 2024 season if no deal on the international draft was reached.
Even if an international draft was agreed to for this CBA, it would take a couple of years before it could be implemented, likely in 2024.
When talks broke down last week, the competitive-balance tax thresholds were the sticking point, with the owners starting at $220 million and the union at $238 million.
The latest proposals had the owners going to $230 million in 2022, $232 million (2023), $236 million in 2024, $240 million (2025) and $242 million (2026), while the players were at $232 million in 2022, $235 million (2023), $240 million (2024), $245 million (2025) and $250 million (2026). Also, the owners have proposed adding another level for incurring a penalty that is $60 million above the base threshold. In the previous CBA, stiffer penalties happened at $20 million and $40 million above the base.
Both sides also are close on the minimum salary, with owners offering $700,000 in 2022 and increasing to $770,000 in 2026, with players at $710,000 and $780,000.
In the pre-arbitration pool that has been proposed, owners are at $40 million for each year of the CBA, while players were at $65 million and increasing $5 million each year.
Big Dates Approaching
As Opening Day keeps getting pushed back, MLB faces a big dilemma. April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day and this year marks the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. It would be an enormous black eye on baseball to miss celebrating this event.
Secondly, owners’ wallets start to get hit even further after missing 25 games. That is the mark in TV deals when refunds will start to come into play.
Owners are also at the point of not paying players or crediting service time for a shorter schedule. Players could use the expanded postseason, which appears to be set at 12 teams, as leverage for both of those issues.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire