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Progress? MLB, MLBPA To Meet Again After Union's Latest CBA Proposal

The MLBPA submitted their counterproposal to MLB in Monday's bargaining session, conceding in two key areas.

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) met on Monday for only the second time since the owners locked out the players on Dec. 2 to discuss core economic issues. This time around, the MLBPA brought a counterproposal to the table in response to the league's proposal from 11 days ago, and it may inject some optimism in the negotiations.

The MLBPA made a major concession by dropping their proposal for earlier free agency, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told This had been a key issue for players during these labor negotiations, and would mean the six years required to qualify for free agency will most likely remain intact in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union also conceded on its proposal for reduced revenue sharing, revising it from $100 million to $30 million, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

For more optimism, the two sides met for close to two hours—a huge improvement from the seven-minute meeting in Dallas on the final day before the lockout—and plan to meet again on Tuesday. According to The Athletic's Evan Drellich, MLB plans to bring a noninclusive proposal to the table. One source tells that the proposal is expected to shift focus again to better compensation for younger players, specifically players with under two years of MLB service time.

While Monday's meeting could be defined as progress, there is still much ground to cover before an agreement is made. According to The Athletic, the MLBPA rejected "most if not all" of the league's previous proposal, and multiple reports described Monday's meeting as "contentious" and "heated". Though the players conceded on their revenue sharing proposal, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has fervently spoken out against any changes to the revenue sharing model.

With the issue of better pay for younger players next on the docket, more contention could be on the horizon. The MLBPA has pushed for players reaching salary arbitration after two years instead of three while the league has seemingly been focused on using a formula-based system to compensate younger players.

First, the league proposed to scrap the arbitration process entirely in favor of a formula-based model, relying on the Wins Above Replacement stat. In MLB's latest proposal, they stuck with a similar formula to compensate players with two-plus years of service while keeping the current arbitration system for players with three to five years of service.

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The two sides both agree that the league minimum should be raised, but the players have proposed a higher raise than the league. MLB's latest proposal offered a tiered system based on service time, paying players between $600,000 and $700,000. The league minimum for the 2021 season was $570,500.

While the MLBPA made two significant concessions on Monday, the union maintained their position in a number of other areas. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the players' proposal included raising the league minimum salary to $775,000, bumping the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold from $210 million to $245 million and implementing a draft lottery for the first eight picks.

Final Thoughts

Yes, progress was made Monday. It was minimal, but the two sides agreed to meet for a second straight day when it took them 42 days to meet for the first time to discuss core issues. That is still progress.

The two sides are still far apart on compensation for younger players, and each side has remained steadfast on the CBT threshold and a potential draft lottery. It will also be interesting to see how MLB responds to the MLBPA's concession on revenue sharing.

We've previously described labor negotiations as a game of chicken, and a major concession by the MLBPA could be the first flinch. Will MLB counter with a significant concession of their own? Or will they try to squeeze more out of the union? The time for pitchers and catchers to report is drawing closer and closer, and the postponement of spring training becomes more and more likely with each passing day. If a deal is not made in the next few weeks, the postponement of the regular season could become a real possibility.

With the way this labor dispute has gone, the two sides agreeing to meet in person on back-to-back days seems like a win for baseball fans. However that meeting goes, the clock is ticking. The pressure of the calendar is growing, and now, so is the pace of the labor negotiations. All fans can hope for is more progress.

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