MLB negotiations hit the road as lockdown continues

JUPITER, Fla. — For more than five hours here Monday, many of baseball’s most important personalities gathered at Roger Dean Stadium, th...

JUPITER, Fla. — For more than five hours here Monday, many of baseball’s most important personalities gathered at Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins.

spring training, which was to start last week, has yet to begin because Major League Baseball locked out the players Dec. 2 and a new labor agreement has yet to be reached. An on-time start to the 2022 regular season – scheduled for March 31 – is at stake.

Sensing heightened urgency, the parties agreed to meet in Florida this week — possibly all week if talks prove productive — starting Monday. Although MLB has made incremental moves in the direction of the players and many roadblocks remain, the parties noted how helpful it was to talk face to face and agreed to meet again on Tuesday.

MLB’s latest proposal included relatively modest adjustments on two counts: increasing the size of the bonus pool for players not yet eligible for arbitration (from $15 million to $20 million for 30 players) and increasing the number of amateur draft picks to be determined by lottery (from the top three to the top four). The syndicate proposed a $115 million bonus pool for 150 players and a draft lottery for the top eight picks.

Other key areas where there are significant discrepancies include league minimum wages, the luxury tax and its penalties, the revenue-sharing system between clubs and the number of players eligible for salary arbitration. MLB has repeatedly insisted it will not touch the last two items, which the union has both sought to modify or expand.

On Monday, the parties met for hours but huddled longer. Not only were the MLB and Players Union bargaining teams present, but also 10 players and two club owners. Owners were Dick Monfort of the Colorado Rockies and Ron Fowler of the San Diego Padres. Monfort is the chairman of the MLB labor committee and Fowler is a past president.

The players in attendance, all of whom hold leadership positions within the union: Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo of the Mets; Jameson Taillon of the Yankees, brent suter of the Milwaukee Brewers, Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals, Sonny Gray of the Cincinnati Reds, Taylor Rogers of the Minnesota Twins, Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals and Jason Castro of the Houston Astros. Other players have joined the union’s internal parallel sessions via Zoom.

Although several recent negotiating sessions have taken place in New York, where MLB and the union are headquartered, those talks have been moved elsewhere. MLB agreed to the union’s request to meet in Florida, where a large number of players live off-season.

A potential week of talks in New York would have made it harder for players to continue their hitting and throwing practices. And because the arrangements were finalized late last week and Monday was a public holiday, a hotel could not be booked for the negotiation sessions. The parties therefore turned to the meeting spaces of the unused Roger Dean Stadium.

Before the first indoor meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, union officials and players huddled in a stadium parking lot. Throughout the afternoon, no less than two dozen fans or autograph seekers stood outside the doors. Two arrived with a sign saying:We want baseball!

Overall, the union has sought a series of improvements to the economic structure of the sport, with the aim of helping young players, improving competition between teams, limiting the manipulation of service time and inject more spending. The league, however, believes players have a fair system with no strict salary caps and sees it as a matter of wealth distribution – which star players disproportionately command more than others.

If teams want to avoid changing the regular season schedule, this week could be critical.

On Friday, MLB announced that the start of spring training games, originally scheduled for February 26, had been postponed “at the earliest” to March 5. Earlier this month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said losing regular season games would be “catastrophicfor the industry.

He also suggested that a minimum spring training duration of four weeks – two weeks less than normal – made sense to avoid a spike in injuries, like the one that preceded the pandemic-shortened 2020 regular season. As a result, MLB’s stated preference to reach a new collective bargaining agreement is February 28.

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Newsrust - US Top News: MLB negotiations hit the road as lockdown continues
MLB negotiations hit the road as lockdown continues
Newsrust - US Top News
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