Presidents Day has arrived, and this week will go a long way to determining when the 2022 MLB season will actually begin.
As it stands, MLB’s lockout has now surpassed 80 days. There have been only a handful of mostly fruitless meetings between the two sides — the league and the players — during that period. Spring training games have been postponed through at least March 5. The regular season, scheduled to begin on March 31, looms, and the chance of an on-time start dwindles with each passing day without a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Time is of the essence. The actions of the two sides this week demonstrate that clearly. Members of each side’s negotiating team will meet every day this week in Florida. Moreover, those meetings will be in person, which is a change from most of the previous negotiations, which were held via video teleconference. This is a crucial step since face-to-face meetings often lead to side conversations between separate parties away from the main table, and those talks can facilitate an agreement on certain issues.
Speaking of issues, there are still plenty to resolve. Wide gulfs remain between what each side wants.
For example, the players’ union has proposed that the minimum salary for pre-arbitration players be $775,000. The owners’ latest proposal put the minimum salary at $630,000. The current rate is $570,000.
The two sides have agreed toward the creation of a bonus pool with which to pay pre-arbitration players. But there is currently a $100 million gap between the two sides; the players’ union has requested that it be $115 million; MLB has proposed $15 million.
The current competitive balance tax threshold is $210 million. MLB has most recently proposed upping the threshold a few million dollars per year over the next five years, up to $222 in 2026. The players’ union wants the threshold raised to $245 million in 2022 and up to $273 million by ‘26.
And none of this mentions revenue sharing, anti-tanking measures, draft changes, service-time manipulation, etc. One thing that has been agreed upon: implementation of the universal designated hitter. Say goodbye to pitchers batting.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that once a new CBA is agreed to, the league estimates it would need a few days to open camps followed by four weeks of spring training before the regular season can commence. Going by that time frame, Feb. 28 has been reported as a negotiation deadline if the regular season is to begin on time. Maybe there is some wiggle room there; if a new CBA is ratified on March 2 or 3, you would figure that a March 31 start is still attainable.
Once there is a deal, get ready for a frenzied few days in baseball. Players under contract will be hustling to get to their respective camps while the more than 200 remaining free agents try to find a place to play — for the right price.
Although spring training has been postponed, there is time for a deal to get done without a disruption to the regular season calendar. The daily, in-person meetings held this week in Florida between the league and the players will pretty much decide whether March 31 remains as Opening Day or if the regular season needs to be delayed.