MLB talks set to ramp up as spring training games officially postponed

Baseballs are brought to the umpire during the first inning of a spring training baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Pittsburgh Pirates in Dunedin, Fla. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

TORONTO – MLB officially announced Friday that spring training games will be delayed through at least March 5, but bargaining meetings with the MLB Players Association are scheduled starting Monday in the hopes of starting the regular season on time.

Core economic issues will be on the table during Monday's meeting, which will be the seventh official bargaining session since owners locked out the players on Dec. 2. Sources said some owners are flying into New York over the weekend as negotiations with the players ramp up. According to the league’s statement, the MLB bargaining committee will “remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard towards starting the season on time.”

After Thursday’s bargaining session, significant distance remains between players and owners on major issues including the competitive balance tax, revenue sharing, minimum salaries, pre-arbitration bonuses and the structure of the arbitration process. As such, an on-time start to the regular season is very much in jeopardy. Players were described by one source as “pissed off” by the slow pace at which the league has proceeded in talks so far.

However, the players may have some emerging leverage on their side. Sources with knowledge of the players’ thinking said the players have indicated to MLB’s top negotiators that they’d refuse to expand the 2022 playoffs if games are missed and players lose the chance to be compensated for a full season. Some industry observers believe that possibility has created additional urgency on the part of owners.

Editor’s Note: One of the 30 MLB teams, the Toronto Blue Jays, is owned by Rogers Communications Inc., which also owns Sportsnet.

“All 30 clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands,” MLB’s statement reads.

Spring training games had been scheduled to begin Feb. 26. Opening day 2022 is scheduled for March 31 with an estimated four weeks of spring training required for players to prepare for the season.

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