The MLBPA and MLB met today for a brief meeting that lasted fifteen minutes, per reports. While these meetings have been called “negotiating sessions,” at this point, they are essentially just for whichever side received the last offer to sit down with the other side, say “here is our latest offer,” presumably walk through whatever key points they want to emphasize or say whatever they have to say, and then let the other side go and review the offer and work on a response.
The major sticking points have seemed to have been the luxury tax, arbitration eligibility, and the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. While the players had been asking that all players with at least two years of service time be eligible for arbitration in their previous offers, they are now (per multiple reports) asking that for players with between two years and three years of service time, the top 80% of players, in terms of service time in that window, be eligible for arbitration. The owners have reportedly indicated that they are not willing to move off of the current structure, which provides that the top 22% of players with between two and three years of service time be arbitration-eligible.
The players have also increased the bonus pool for the top performing players who are not arbitration-eligible, from $100 million to $115 million, with the pool being distributed to 150 players, rather than 30 players. The justification for increasing the pool amount is that the owners will be saving more than that much with the smaller number of arbitration eligible players in this proposal.
MLB’s offer on a pre-arb bonus pool is currently at $15 million, and honestly, I’m struggling to understand why MLB is so dug in on this issue. The $15 million number comes out to $500,000 per club — less than the minimum salary for one player, and a figure that MLBPA likely sees, rightly, as a de minimis give on the league’s part. Even the $115 million figure that the players are asking for in this proposal represents less than $4 million per team.
Given that teams can simply factor that into their budgetary process and simply spend $4 million less on the rest of their payroll, if they choose, which would potentially make this payroll neutral, I am at a loss as to why MLB won’t budge on this. Though it would also suggest this would be the area MLB would be most likely to move on.
I’d guess that the owners will have their response to the players on Sunday or Monday, and we will continue to be in limbo.