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MLB makes 1st proposal since lockout, awaits union’s counter

MLB makes 1st proposal since lockout, awaits union’s counter

By RONALD BLUM | The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Baseball labor talks to end the lockout resumed Thursday for the first time in six weeks with little evident progress during a bargaining session that lasted about an hour, jeopardizing a timely start to spring training.

Major League Baseball imposed the lockout on Dec. 2 as soon as the five-year collective bargaining contract expired, a few hours after talks broke off.

The discussions Thursday were the first on core economic issues following a 42-day gap, and MLB made proposals it hoped would at least start to generate momentum.

After MLB made its proposal, the sides caucused. The players’ association then told MLB it will respond but did not commit to a specific date.

While the sides were back to bargaining, they met just five weeks before the scheduled start of spring training workouts on Feb. 16. Given the time needed for players to travel to Florida and Arizona, and then to go through COVID-19 protocols before taking the field, the prospects of a timely start are diminishing.

A deal would need to be reached by late February or early March to allow the minimum time for training ahead of the current Opening Day, set for March 31.

MLB’s proposal contained no movement on free-agent eligibility or luxury tax thresholds, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no public comment was authorized.

Management did offer to keep salary arbitration for players with at least three but less than six years of major league service. It also has offered a new system that would switch to a pool based on WAR, but the union has shown no interest in such a change.

MLB proposed to replace the “super twos,” the top 22% by service of those with at least two seasons but less than three, with additional spending for the entire two-plus class based on performance.

Teams proposed to address the union’s concern over club service-time manipulation by allowing a team to gain an additional draft pick for an accomplishment by a player not yet eligible for arbitration, such as a high finish in award voting.

There was no movement on the sides’ different stands on luxury tax levels, minimum salaries or on the union’s desire to decrease revenue sharing, which would leave large-market teams with more money to spend.

The luxury tax threshold was $210 million in 2021, and MLB proposed raising the threshold to $214 million. Players have asked to lift the threshold to $245 million and to eliminate non-tax penalties.

In addition, MLB also continued to push for a 14-team playoff, as opposed to the 12-team version the union proposed and reportedly offered a universal designated hitter.

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