The clock is ticking, but MLB and its players are staying apart

Players have looked for a range of improvements: younger players get compensation faster, create ways for players to get to salary arbitration and free bureaus faster, raise luxury tax thresholds (from $210 million to $245 million), share revenue by $100 million, curtailing service time, manipulation, and forcing teams to be more competitive through a handful of measures, including changes to the amateur draw (a draft lottery for the top eight picks).

However, owners believe that baseball players have the best deal in professional sports — MLB is the only one of the four major North American professional leagues with no salary cap. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred drew some of the league’s lines in the sand last month, saying there would be no changes in revenue sharing or the amount of time a player needs to reach the free desk. He also characterized the union’s requests as “collectively the most extreme set of proposals in their history.”

Among MLB’s previous proposals, some of which have been rejected by the union: a salary cap for clubs ($100 million) along with a lower luxury tax threshold ($180 million) – or more modest increases in the luxury tax threshold (starting at $214 million) without a floor but with steeper penalties for passing; elimination of draft pick compensation, which penalizes teams for signing top free players; a review of the salary arbitration system; smaller increases in league minimum wages and making free choice based on age (29.5) rather than length of service (six years).

(There is some agreement between the parties on things like a universal designated batter and extended playoffs, although MLB has proposed a 14-team format and the union has called for 12.)

In the course of the lockout, the parties met twice before Thursday, but those meetings were intended to discuss matters not related to the major economic hurdles. The CBA is a big document that governs everything in sports — from season length to roster sizes to domestic violence policies to economic structure — so there’s a lot to agree on.

Deals often come about when deadlines get closer and closer. MLB and its players are already past the December 1 CBA expiration date. The next pressure point is mid-February, when pitchers and catchers are expected to report to their camps in Arizona and Florida.

Players don’t miss out on a paycheck in the off-season, nor during spring training, when they receive allowances. Salary begins when the regular season does. During the lockout there must be no contact between team officials and players, and players are not allowed in the club facilities. Hundreds of free agent players remain unsigned, including stars like Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa.

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