MLB’s snail-paced lockout talks to resume with union offer
NEW YORK (AP) — Locked out baseball players plan to make a counteroffer to management on Monday, 11 days after clubs gave the union a proposal when the snail-paced negotiations resumed following a 42-day break.
The players’ association asked Major League Baseball on Thursday to schedule the negotiating session, which is to take place in-person.
There is dwindling time to reach an agreement in time for spring training to start as scheduled on Feb. 16.
The scheduled March 31 opening day is also increasingly threatened, given the need for players to report, go through COVID-19 protocols and have at least three weeks of workouts that include a minimal number of exhibition games.
Players don’t receive paychecks until the regular season, and owners get only a small percentage of their revenue during the offseason. Those factors create negotiations that are a game of chicken until mid-to-late February, when significant economic losses become more imminent.
When owners made their new proposal during a video meeting on Jan. 13, players reacted coolly and said they would contact MLB when they were ready to respond.
Baseball’s ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995, started Dec. 2 following the expiration of a five-year labor contract.
Unhappy with a 4% drop in payrolls to 2015 levels, players have asked for significant change that includes more liberalized free agency and salary arbitration eligibility.
Management says it will not consider changes to free agency, salary arbitration or revenue sharing but made the latest offer in an attempt to propel talks.
Six seasons of major league service have been required for free agency since 1976. Salary arbitration eligibility since 2013 has been three seasons plus the top 22% by service time of players with at least two years but less than three years.
MLB proposed to replace the “super two” arbitration group with additional spending for the entire two-plus class based on performance. Players have proposed have expanding eligibility to all players with at least two seasons.
Players also want to reduce revenue sharing, which would take money away from smaller-market teams and allow large-market clubs to retain a higher percentage of cash — presumably to be spent on salaries.
The luxury tax threshold was $210 million in 2021, and MLB proposed raising the threshold to $214 million. Players have asked to raise the threshold to $245 million and to eliminate non-tax penalties.
Teams also want to expand from 10 postseason teams to 14, and players have offered 12.
Both sides have proposed a draft lottery aimed to spur competition on the field but differ on how many teams to include.
In their latest proposal, teams offered to address the union’s concern over club service-time manipulation by allowing a team to gain an additional draft pick for an accomplishment by a player not yet eligible for arbitration, such as a high finish in award voting.
This year’s free agent class was headlined by a star quintet of shortstops, but three of them signed big-money deals last week — Seager, Marcus Semien (Rangers) and Javier Báez (Tigers).
Carlos Correa and Trevor Story remain, with Andrelton Simmons also available for suitors who might miss out.
Correa, the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, was considered the top player on the market entering the offseason and is certain to get the biggest deal after the lockout. The 27-year-old batted .279 with 26 homers, 92 RBIs and an .850 OPS for Houston in 2021, perhaps shaking some concerns about his durability by playing 148 games — his first time with at least 111 since 2016.
Two targets loom for Correa — Seager’s $325 million deal was the biggest signed this offseason, and Francisco Lindor’s $341 million, 10-year contract with the Mets is the record payday for a shortstop. Correa is looking for a deep-pocketed team ready to make a last-minute splash before spring training. Conveniently, the Yankees top the list of clubs that need a shortstop. General manager Brian Cashman has heaped praise on Correa, saying last month that negative fan reaction tied to the sign-stealing scandal was “not going to enter my calculus” and that Correa was “clearly not afraid.”
The 29-year-old Story has played six stellar seasons with the Colorado Rockies and hit .251 with 24 homers and 75 RBIs in 2021, surprisingly remaining in Denver all season instead of being traded to a contender. He could get something similar to Báez’s $140 million, six-year deal with Detroit.
Simmons won the last of his four Gold Gloves in 2018 and batted just .223 with three homers for Minnesota last year.
Freddie Freeman remains a free agent despite his apparently tight ties with the World Series champion Braves. The 2020 MVP is coming off another stellar season, hitting .300 with 31 homers, 83 RBIs and an .896 OPS.
Drafted by Atlanta in 2007, the 32-year-old seems like a prime candidate to follow friend and mentor Chipper Jones in being a lifelong Brave. If that doesn’t happen, it's not hard to picture nearly every big-market team trying to take a run at the five-time All-Star.
It’s expected — but not certain — that the National League will adopt the designated hitter as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. Several players stand to benefit by waiting to sign until that change is official.
Nick Castellanos should get the biggest payday of the group. The 29-year-old hit .309 with 34 homers and 100 RBIs for Cincinnati in 2021, but his outfield defense is just OK. Kyle Schwarber, who hit 32 homers for Washington and Boston last year, has a similar profile.
Nelson Cruz struggled after a midseason trade to Tampa Bay last year, but the 41-year-old still hit 32 homers and should get an everyday job. World Series MVP Jorge Soler also remains available.
Justin Verlander has been left in an odd situation after agreeing to a $25 million, one-year deal with a conditional $25 million player option to return to Houston. The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to the deal two weeks before the lockout, but the Astros never announced they had finalized his contract. The 38-year-old technically remains on the market, although there hasn’t been any indication he won’t end up back with Houston.
Righties Nick Martinez and Jordan Lyles are in similar positions. Martinez, coming off a strong season in Japan, was close to an agreement with San Diego but couldn’t get it completed before the owners locked out the players Dec. 2. Lyles, meanwhile, had a deal with Baltimore but was unable to get his physical done in time.
Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki was posted by NPB’s Hiroshima Toya Carp on Nov. 22, and his 30-day window to sign with a major league team was paused by the shutdown. He’ll have 20 days to find a deal once rosters unfreeze, and agent Joel Wolfe told Japanese media last week that between eight and 15 teams have expressed interest. Another potential obstacle: spring training in Japan starts Feb. 1.
Kris Bryant could fit onto nearly any roster because of his versatility — he played more games in the outfield than at third base for the first time this season, including 19 appearances in center. ... LHP Carlos Rodón didn’t get a qualifying offer from the White Sox despite finishing fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2021, meaning teams won’t sacrifice a draft pick if they sign him. ... LHP Clayton Kershaw also wasn’t given a qualifying offer by the Dodgers, although that was more a courtesy to the 33-year-old. He’s expected to return to Los Angeles if he plays next year. ... Other names of note: OF Michael Conforto, 1B Anthony Rizzo, RHP Kenley Jansen, OF and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario.
FILE - Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Major League Baseball and the players’ association are scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in the first negotiations between the parties since labor talks broke off Dec. 1. The planning of the meeting was disclosed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)