MLB talks resume as lockout continues

AP file photo by LM Otero / Major League Baseball made proposals to the MLB Players Association on Thursday as talks resumed after a 42-day gap amid a lockout that could threaten the timely start of spring training and the 2022 season. The MLBPA said it would respond to the proposals but did not say when.

NEW YORK - Labor talks to end Major League Baseball's lockout resumed Thursday for the first time in 1 1/2 months, but with little evident progress during a bargaining session that lasted about an hour, jeopardizing a timely start to spring training.

MLB imposed the lockout on Dec. 2 as soon as the five-year collective bargaining contract expired, a few hours after talks broke off.

Thursday's discussions were the first on core economic issues after a 42-day gap, and MLB made proposals it hoped would at least start to generate momentum. After MLB made its proposal, the sides caucused. The Major League Baseball Players Association then told MLB it will respond but did not commit to a specific date.

While the sides were back to bargaining, they met just five weeks before the scheduled start of spring training workouts on Feb. 16. Given the time needed for players to travel to Arizona and Florida, then go through COVID-19 protocols before taking the field, the prospects of a timely start are diminishing.

A deal would need to be reached by late February or early March to allow the minimum time for training ahead of the current opening day for the 2022 regular season, set for March 31.

MLB's proposal included no movement on free agent eligibility or luxury tax thresholds, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no public comment was authorized.

Management did offer to keep salary arbitration for players with at least three but less than six years of service in the majors. It also has offered a new system that would switch to a pool based on WAR - wins above replacement, a metric for a given player's value - but the union has shown no interest in such a change.

MLB proposed to replace the so-called "super twos," the top 22% by service of those with at least two seasons but less than three, with additional spending for the entire two-plus class based on performance.

Owners proposed 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.

There was no movement on the sides' different stands on luxury tax levels and minimum salaries or the union's desire to decrease revenue sharing, which would leave teams in large markets with more money to spend.

The luxury tax threshold was $210 million in 2021, and MLB proposed raising the threshold to $214 million. Players have asked to lift the threshold to $245 million and to eliminate nontax penalties.

In addition, MLB wants to expand the postseason from 10 teams to 14, while the union is offering 12.

MLB has offered to eliminate draft pick compensation for players lost through free agency, which has been in the labor contract since 1976; to expand the designated hitter to the National League (the American League has used the DH since 1973); and to institute an NBA-style draft lottery to address rebuilding, though the sides differ on how many teams the lottery would include.

photo AP photo by Jeff Roberson / The St. Louis Cardinals host the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 24, 2020, with Busch Stadium empty due to the coronavirus pandemic that delayed the start of that season for months. Major League Baseball could face a delayed start for the second time in three years if labor talks don't progress quickly amid the current lockout.

A lengthy gap between talks is not unusual for the parties when squabbling.

After a strike began on Aug. 12, 1994, the sides met on Aug. 24-25, then again Sept. 7-9. Commissioner Bud Selig canceled the World Series on Sept. 14, and the sides didn't resume bargaining until Nov. 10.

After another round, talks broke off Dec. 22 until sessions from Feb. 1-7 and Feb. 27-March 4. The strike ended after U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor - now a Supreme Court justice - issued an injunction on March 31 that restored the rules of the expired contract.

The regular season began April 25 and lasted 144 games. With a third division having been added in each league in 1994, the 1995 postseason expanded to eight teams in all and introduced division series. It ended with the Atlanta Braves winning their first World Series title since the franchise's move from Milwaukee three decades earlier.

Atlanta won its second championship since moving to the city this past fall, weeks before baseball went into its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike.