The players’ union is not impressed by Thursday’s proposals

Well, at least they’re talking.

This time, Thursday afternoon’s video call between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association lasted more than an hour instead of a duel that lasted a full seven minutes during their last negotiation session on Dec. 1.

According to two people with knowledge of the meeting, the MLB made three proposals on issues the union had raised in previous negotiations.

They spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity as the negotiations were not public.

MLB proposed significantly increasing pay for players with at least two years of major league service who are not yet eligible for salary arbitration. Players who achieve certain performance incentives would receive the largest pay rises.

In turn, the top 22% of veteran players, the so-called Super 2 class, would no longer be eligible for arbitration. However, players with at least one day of service would be transferred to the current system. There are currently about 30 players that would fall into the Super 2 class. All players would have to have at least three years of service before being eligible for salary arbitration.

A proposal was also made to end the manipulation of service time, which includes a mechanism that would offer clubs additional draft picks as an incentive to promote prospects to the big leagues.

There was also a change to the draft lottery proposal to prevent teams from automatically being given the best draft picks for the worst records.

There was no change to MLB’s most recent minimum salary proposal of paying players $600,000 with one day of service, $650,000 with one year of service, and $700,000 for players with at least two years of service. The minimum salary is currently $570,500.

MLB also informed the union that it would not reduce free agency from six years to five or expand the pool of players eligible for salary arbitration.

There was also no change to MLB’s current $214 million luxury tax proposal, a $210 million increase while the union is targeting $245 million. The union is demanding a $100 million reduction in revenue sharing among clubs — which MLB owners strongly oppose, believing it would only widen the financial divide between the big and small markets.

The union and several senior players were unfazed by the new proposals and will now reconvene to determine when they will meet again. MLB expects the union to disagree with their proposals maybe next week.

The two sides recognize that they must reach an agreement by the first week of February in order for spring training to start on time and prevent the spring training games from being postponed. Spring training is still scheduled to start on February 16, with exhibition matches starting 10 days later.

There are still nearly 300 free agents who need jobs, perhaps at least half who may need to make minor league deals with 40-man rosters frozen during the lockout and teams have yet to fill out their rosters.

Players will also need at least 10 days to report to camp, work out visas for foreign players and also go through COVID-19 protocols upon arrival at camp.

The date for closing a deal without losing regular season games is around March 5, with opening day scheduled for March 31.

It’s still about three weeks before both sides feel the pressure to reach an agreement, but the urgency is starting to creep in.

The only real economic issue they’ve agreed on so far is MLB’s acceptance of the union’s pension and benefits proposal, although MLB has also informed the union that it is willing to free-hand the pay of draft picks abolish.

MLB has offered to take on a universal DH who pays an average salary of about $9 million per year. The union has agreed to expand the postseason playoff pool from 10 teams to 12 teams, while MLB wants a 14-team pool.

MLB argues that their proposals aim to provide impetus to find a way to reach an agreement.

The union argues that the proposals do not provide nearly enough money for younger players, encourage all 30 teams to be competitive, or discourage teams from freely spending money because of the luxury tax penalties.

Certainly many obstacles lie ahead as the clock ticks, but at least for the time being 42 days from now they speak.

Who knows, maybe next time they’ll even dare to meet up in person again, considering their New York offices are only a few blocks apart?

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