Considering how the past week of everyday negotiations have gone between the owners and players’ union, there shouldn’t be much reason for optimism that the MLB lockout will be lifted and Opening Day for the 2022 regular season will start on its originally scheduled date of March 31.
However, there seems to be some optimism seeping through the cracks of the broken foundation that is Major League Baseball.
MLB insider Jon Heyman reported on Sunday that a person involved with negotiations believes the two feuding parties are “within striking distance” of a deal and that it can be struck as soon as Monday night.
It’s a surprising forecast considering just how contentious things have been in recent days and one that was refuted by Yankees reliever and MLBPA pension committee representative, Zach Britton, shortly after on Sunday.
Saturday’s talks between league owners and the players’ union did not go well, per multiple reports, after the players put forth a comprehensive offer in which they made even more concessions to their original demands. The league, which has done little to meet them in the middle, “did not respond well,” as noted by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Amongst the largest points of attrition is the competitive balance tax (CBT), which is the impromptu salary cap that dictates how much a team can spend on its players each year. Should a team go past that number, penalties will be administered in the form of fines or the relinquishing of draft picks — the specifics being contingent on the remainder of these negotiations.
The players originally wanted to increase the CBT from $210 million in 2021 to as high as $245 million in 2022 — and then increase incrementally each year throughout the life of the next collective bargaining agreement. The owners originally met that offer with $214 million in 2022.
Upon their comprehensive proposal that also included cutting the number of players with two years of service time qualifying for arbitration (Super 2s) from 75% to 35%, the players also lowered their CBT ask by $2 million. The league’s response was minuscule, refusing to move their Super 2 number from 22% while raising the CBT to just $215 million — just a $1 million increase.
Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that the players were “furious” at MLB’s offer and even considered walking away from the negotiating table altogether on Saturday.
Hard to believe that they are “within striking distance” as Heyman reported.
But the league and players alike are now staring down the proverbial barrel of pushing back the start of the 2022 season, which should put some pep in negotiations even though this deadline has been looming for weeks, now.
Monday is the cut-off date that would delay Opening Day if a deal is not reached and the lockout remains intact. Major League Baseball needs a five-week ramp-up period to start the regular season — two weeks for free agency to be completed and another three weeks to complete a spring training process that properly ramps the players up for the year.
Despite the CBT being described as the “sticky issue” by Heyman, there is a belief that the two parties will agree on a number between $225 million-$230 million to get baseball rolling in 2022.