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MLB, players meet in person; talks to continue today

MLBAfter a New York City meeting yesterday between MLB officials and players association officials, another face-to-face sit-down is scheduled for today, as progress is reported on a new labor agreement.

No one is directly talking with the press about the small-group meeting yesterday, but sources quoted by a variety of publications–ESPN, Washington Post, The New York Times–report progress in the talk, with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA)–say the players countered an offer from MLB with their offer. In what was considered a significant move, the players dropped a demand to reduce the number of years before a player can achieve free agency from six to five, and a request to reduce revenue sharing in an attempt to force teams to compete. The issue of tanking is a huge one for players; taking away rewards for low payrolls and a perpetually state of rebuilding while owners are guaranteed a revenue base by MLB is seen as one of the problems of the game for players. Here’s a summary of the state of affairs from the Washington Post:

Generally speaking, the players are seeking major systemic change to a status quo they believe grew more and more unfavorable over the past few collective bargaining agreements. They want younger players to be paid more, in large part because teams have found that younger players are more cost-controlled than similarly productive veterans, which means older players are being pushed out of jobs and younger ones are making less than they should, given what they’re producing on the field. In a related push, the players want to implement a system to deter what they believe is widespread service-time manipulation — the process by which teams keep young stars in the minor leagues to postpone their free agency as long as possible.

The players also want to push teams away from perennial losing, something they believe can be addressed, in part, by creating an expansive draft lottery that means the team with the worst record is not guaranteed the first pick.

MLB, meanwhile, seems content to keep the next agreement in line with the previous one, though its representatives have made proposals they believe address the players’ concerns. They have proposed a system of draft pick compensation for teams that begin a season with young stars on their rosters, rewarding those who call up players when they are ready as measured, in part, by awards those young players win after they arrive. They also have proposed a draft lottery — but a smaller one than the players want: In MLB’s proposal, the team with the worst record is guaranteed to pick no lower than fourth. In the players’ proposal, that team could fall as far as ninth.

There are some big issues to be addressed in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and both sides are on the clock if the regular season is to begin on time. Pressure is on both sides: MLB owners and management are pretty adamant about approaching the 2022 season with as high a degree of normalcy as possible after two seasons impacted by COVID-19–and yes, that involves spring training, which is seen as much a marketing tool as a player-development requisite.

RELATED STORIES: MLB, player reps set to meet in person Monday

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