MLB labour talks progress, but international draft remains an issue

TORONTO – Negotiators for baseball’s players and owners kept bargaining as Tuesday gave way to Wednesday, hopeful that a day of meaningful concessions would provide momentum toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

Talks between both sides came to an end early Wednesday morning after the MLB Players Association requested to speak to its board before responding to the league’s latest proposal, Evan Drellich of the Atheltic reports. MLB is not cancelling games at the moment as the players will put forth another proposal to the owners.

A proposal from MLB Tuesday evening included significant increases to the competitive balance tax and the pre-arbitration bonus pool as well as smaller-scale concessions in other areas. Those developments led to initial optimism that there could be a path to a deal on time to play a 162-game season for which players would be paid in full.

Yet as talks continued in New York, the prospect of an international draft became a focal point of discussions and talks slowed, according to sources. While the league now considers an international draft a priority, players had some initial resistance to the idea, meeting internally to discuss potential consequences in detail while reaching out to Latin American players for additional viewpoints.

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

Owners tied the international draft to the elimination of the qualifying offer, suggesting that without an international draft the qualifying offer system could remain in place. Players dislike the qualifying offer, which they consider a significant drag on the earning power of free agents, so they’re motivated to eliminate the QO if at all possible. Whether that’s possible without implementing an international draft remains to be seen.

If owners do get their wish, an international draft would likely cut down on the total cost of bonuses for players from international baseball hotbeds including the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. A draft would bring with it various logistical challenges, but the existing system is fraught with corruption already so some changes are required regardless.

Even if the sides didn’t immediately find common ground on the international draft, they made significant concessions in the course of talks, which were led by MLB’s Dan Halem and the MLBPA’s Bruce Meyer.

The league proposed a competitive balance tax of $230 million (up from $220 million) with increases to $242 million over the course of a five-year CBA. Players, meanwhile, expressed openness to a new surcharge tax level designed to rein in runaway spenders.

The league also offered to increase the bonus pool for pre-arbitration eligible players to $40 million annually, up from $30 million. The players didn’t initially present the league with a formal counter-offer on that topic, but indicated a willingness to lower their ask from $80 million per year down to $70 million with annual increases.

Owners also increased their offer on minimum salaries slightly while offering to determine a sixth draft pick via lottery, as the players had requested. Meanwhile, the players offered to allow MLB to implement rule changes regarding shifts, expanded bases and pitch clocks with 45 days’ notice.



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