JUPITER, Fla. — With less than two days before Major League Baseball’s deadline to reach a labor deal to salvage opening day on March 31 and the sides far apart, players were unsure whether they will break off talks.
Both sides made moves Saturday, but the union was upset with management’s response. The union staff planned to discuss with players whether to meet Sunday or to head home.
Players lowered their proposal for the luxury tax by $2 million annually in each year from 2023-24, but the sides remain far apart. Owners responded by moving from $214 million to $215 million in 2023.
Teams still want to increase the base tax rate from 20% to 45%. They dropped their proposed second rate from 25% to 17%.
The union dropped to 35% from 75% for the percentage of players with two to three years of major league service who would become eligible for salary arbitration. MLB says it will not move from the current 22%.
Players also withdrew their proposal that would cut revenue sharing by $30 million annually but kept its plan to give small-market teams an incentive to spend. The union changed its proposal to having the incentive money come from central revenue, which it estimates would cost a large-market club no more than $1 million in a year.
MLB asked to tie an amateur draft lottery to expanding the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams.
The union also kept its proposal to limit optional assignments to five annually.
Teams added that a committee comprised of six management officials, two union and one umpire be allowed to make in-field rules changes with 45 days’ notice. Currently, management can only change rules with union consent or unilaterally with one year notice.
Owners still are proposing an international draft, which the union opposes.
After holding just six negotiating sessions on central economics from the start of the lockout through Feb. 19, the sides met for the sixth straight day at Roger Dean Stadium, the vacant spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
Mets pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Francisco Lindor, Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole and free agent reliever Andrew Miller were among the players at the talks. Baseball’s ninth work stoppage, it first since 1995, was in its 87th day.
The sides arrived at noon, an hour earlier than every previous session this year, then caucused for nearly 2 1/2 hours. The union held a Zoom session for its player representatives, about 30, which has been its deliberative method.
MLB has said that if there is not an agreement by the end of Monday, it would start canceling games because there will not be enough training time to play a full schedule.
After days of little progress, the sides neared agreement Friday on an amateur draft lottery during negotiations that included a surprise one-on-one meeting between Commissioner Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark.
Players have not accepted Monday as a deadline and have suggested any missed games could be made up as part of doubleheaders, a method MLB said it will not agree to.
Once Monday passes, the length of the schedule would become yet another issue in the dispute along with possible lost pay and service time.
The union has told MLB if games are missed and salaries are lost, clubs should not expect players to agree to management’s proposals to expand the postseason and to allow advertisements on uniforms and helmets.