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Spring Training Is Unlikely to Begin on Time

Neither MLB nor the MLBPA is operating with the idea of opening camps by the scheduled start date, Feb. 16.

The on-time opening of spring training camps appeared no closer after a bargaining session Tuesday between baseball owners and players achieved little progress, according to sources familiar with the 90-minute session.

No follow-up talks on core economic issues were scheduled. Instead, small groups are to meet Wednesday on non-core issues. Camps are scheduled to open Feb. 16. The pace and progress of talks would have to accelerate significantly to meet that goal.

A week after the last talks on economic issues, the players association dropped by $5 million its proposal for a pre-arbitration bonus pool—from $105 million to $100 million. The owners had proposed $10 million. An even wider gap exists on arbitration eligibility. Players want to reduce it to two years of service time while owners have indicated any such change is a non-starter. The two sides agree on the concept of improving pay to young players but have remained far apart on mechanisms to achieve it.

Players also reduced the number of players who would benefit from their proposal to address service time manipulation. Players who rank among the top seven at non-outfield and non-pitching positions according to a WAR-based formula would qualify for a full service year—a Kris Bryant Rule, if you will. It had been top 10. The cutoff for outfielders and pitchers dropped from top 30 to top 20.

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Until an agreement is reached, free agency remains on hold. Sixty-one free agents signed in the flurry prior to the start of the lockout Dec. 2. But about 130 free agents remain unsigned. Based on past free agent markets, about 60 of those are in line to sign major league contracts.

More MLB Coverage:
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The Active Pitchers and DHs Closest to the Cooperstown Cut Line