MLB makes slight moves toward players in longer lockout talk

Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

JUPITER, Fla.- Baseball negotiations resumed with renewed intensity Monday in an effort to salvage opening day, and Major League Baseball made slight moves toward locked-out players.

With perhaps a week left to salvage opening day, union head Tony Clark attended negotiations for the first time since the MLB lockout began, accompanied by New York Mets stars Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor.

MLB increased its offer of a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players by $5 million to $20 million, a fraction of the $115 million the union has asked for.

Clubs also increased their proposal for a lottery for the amateur draft from the top three picks to the top four. Players have asked for the top eight.

Both sides met at least twice, with a lengthy break for caucuses in-between. They talked into the early evening, their longest time together in one place since the lockout began.

The previous time the sides met, they talked for only 15 minutes on Thursday.

The Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon, the Reds’ Sonny Gray, the Royals’ Whit Merrifield, the Twins’ Taylor Rogers, the Brewers’ Brent Suter and the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo also were among the players at this bargaining session at Roger Dean Stadium, the vacant spring training home of St. Louis and the Miami Marlins.

Clark and the players conferred with Bruce Meyer, the union’s chief negotiator, in the right field parking lot before entering the ballpark.

Colorado Rockies CEO Dick Monfort, chairman of the owners’ labor policy committee, was on hand along with San Diego Padres vice chairman Ron Fowler, the immediate past chair of the committee. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was not present, and the MLB delegation was headed by Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, the clubs’ lead negotiator.

The site of negotiations is about 3 miles from the home of Scherzer, among the eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee. The Astros’ Jason Castro also attended from the executive subcommittee.

Workouts failed to start on time last Wednesday due to baseball’s ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995.

Monday’s session was just the seventh on core economics since the lockout started Dec. 2, and the sides have met on consecutive days just once, on Jan. 24 and 25. MLB said Friday that it intended to have meetings with the union every day in the coming week.

The lockout entered its 82nd day Monday. MLB on Friday canceled spring training games from Feb. 26 through March 4.

While owners and players have participated by Zoom, the only ones to attend a session in person have been Monfort and free-agent reliever Andrew Miller, on Jan. 24.

Until now, all talks during the lockout had been in New York at the offices of MLB and the players’ association.

MLB told the union that Feb. 28 is the last possible day to reach an agreement to allow openers on March 31, given the desire for four weeks of workouts and additional time to ratify an agreement and have players report to camps in Florida and Arizona.

But the sides agreed to less training time after disrupted spring trainings in 1990, 1995 and 2020.