MLB lockout talks to resume Tuesday as spring training nears

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, left, and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark speak before Game 1 in baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, Oct. 26, 2021, in Houston. (Ron Blum/AP)

NEW YORK — Baseball labour negotiations are set to resume Tuesday, just over two weeks before the scheduled start of a spring training that’s threatened by a lockout.

The sport’s ninth work stoppage began Dec. 2 after the expiration of a five-year labour contract, and the sides did not meet again on the central economic issues until Jan. 24, when players withdrew their proposal for more liberalized free agency.

Management responded the following day by withdrawing its proposal for more limited salary arbitration. Clubs also accepted the union’s framework to funnel additional money to pre-arbitration-eligible players from central revenue, offering a $10 million pool based on awards and WAR. The union has asked for $105 million for the group, usually about 30 players annually.

Tuesday’s session will be the first on the central issues since then, and the sides don’t agree on many economic proposals, leaving very little time to end the lockout and avoid disrupting the Feb. 16 scheduled start of spring training workouts. Players would need several days to travel to team complexes in Arizona and Florida, plus time to go through COVID-19 protocols.

This is probably the last week to reach a deal that would allow a timely start to spring training. Owners are scheduled to meet from Feb. 8-10 in Orlando, Florida, making it less likely there could be negotiations over those days.

Given the need for at least three weeks of workouts, opening day on March 31 would be threatened if there is not an agreement by late February or early March.

Players want arbitration eligibility extended to those with at least two years of major-league service, its level from 1974-86. Since 2013, eligibility has included only the top 22 per cent by service time among those with at least two years but less than three.

Clubs say they will not consider changes to arbitration or alterations that would lower revenue sharing. Players have proposed reducing revenue sharing by $30 million annually, a projection management disputes.

Players also want new structures to address alleged service time manipulation and have proposed raising the minimum salary from $570,500 to $775,000 this season. Management proposed a $615,000 minimum for players with less than one year of major league service but with a provision teams couldn’t pay more than that amount.

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