NEW YORK — Hope springs eternal for Major League Baseball owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association as negotiations to end the owners’ lockout of players nears 100 days.
The two sides negotiated for nearly 17 hours on Tuesday, according to ESPN, with talks ending around 3 a.m. ET Wednesday. MLB owners had threatened to cancel the second week of games if a deal wasn’t struck Tuesday, but pushed past the deadline during negotiations.
According to USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale, if an agreement is reached Wednesday, “the tentative plan is for Opening Day to be April 6-7.” Nightengale said the regular season would be extended three days and all missed regular-season games would be made up if a deal is made on March 9.
If an agreement is reached today, the tentative plan is for Opening Day to be April 6-7, with the regular season extended by three days. The other missed games from the week-long delay would be made up in doubleheaders during the season.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 9, 2022
By playing all regular-season games, MLB players would receive their full pay for the 2022 regular season. MLB had previously canceled the first week of games when a deal wasn’t reached by March 1. If no deal is reached by Wednesday’s soft deadline, MLB is expected to cancel at least a second week of games.
According to multiple reports, progress was being made on all issues with the league raising the competitive balance tax threshold to $230 million (possibly with multiple tiers) and that would escalate to at least $242 million over coming years. If a team violated the tax, they would be penalized by $60 million or more, ESPN reported.
The league's offer reportedly had a minimum salary that would increase to $700,000 and increase over coming seasons to $770,000. There would also be a pre-arbitration pool of at least $40 million, but players are still seeking $75 million.
However, all of those numbers can change as everything remains fluid until the signatures are on the deal from both sides.
As part of the owners’ latest offer, MLB would have a shortened window to implement rules changes like a pitch clock, banning defensive shifts, and more. The owners also reportedly want to allow advertising on uniforms, a universal designated hitter in both leagues, changes to the draft, and implementing an international draft.
The international draft has reportedly been a sticking point as the negotiations continued Wednesday. According to Nightengale, MLB wants the draft and offered to eliminate all qualifying offers to free agents as an incentive to get players to agree to the plan.
The international draft appears to be the last big remaining obstacle to reach a labor deal today. MLB badly seeks it, and will eliminate all qualifying offers for free agents in return. The union still is opposed as it receives input from players, former players and agents.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 9, 2022
Again though, everything is fluid as negotiations will continue.
The MLB owners' lockout of the players began on December 2 just after midnight. After that, negotiations moved at a glacial pace with no real urgency coming from either side until spring training neared in February. But, with no lengthy negotiations before that point, both sides were a long way from each other in striking a deal.
The owners would like to keep things as close to the status quo as possible. Team values have increased exponentially in recent years and a new television deal, including streaming on Apple TV+, brought in another significant windfall for baseball.
Still, according to ESPN, player salaries have dropped over the past four years even as revenues hit $10.7 billion in 2019, roughly in line with how much the National Football League pulled in that year.