MLB, Players Union to Finally Meet With Typical Spring Training Start 5 Weeks Away

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are set to meet Thursday to finally begin talking again, with the typical spring training start five weeks away.

The meeting, set for video conference, ends a 42-day break in negotiation that started when management implemented a lockout in the sport's first work stoppage since 1995. With the start of spring training coming, management planned to create a new proposal for players, several people with knowledge of the negotiations that told the Associated Press on Tuesday. The people spoke in exchange for anonymity, as no announcement was made.

The last meeting between management and the players association occurred on December 1 in Irving, Texas. It ended hours before the collective bargaining agreement expired. Negotiations have tackled only surrounding issues since then.

Management has offered to extend the designated hitter to the National League, eliminate draft-pick compensation for losing free agents, and raise the tax threshold to $214 million.

Players requested liberalized eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration, changes to increase competition between clubs, an increase in the luxury tax threshold to $245 million from $210 million, and provisions that address what the union claims is service time manipulation.

The league's payroll decreased 4 percent in 2021 compared to its last full season in 2019. Its $4.05 billion total was the lowest in a completed year since 2015.

MLB, Players' Association, Negotiations Continue
The last meeting between Major League Baseball and the players’ association occurred on December 1, 2021, in Irving, Texas. Above, Will Smith (51) and Travis d'Arnaud (16) of the Atlanta Braves celebrate the team's 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 6 to win the 2021 World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 2, 2021, in Houston, Texas. Elsa/Getty Images

Both sides would increase the minimum salary, players from $570,500 to $775,000 this season and management to a series of tiers: $600,000 for players with less than a year of big-league service, $650,000 for at least one but less than two, and $700,000 for at least two.

Negotiators also have discussed an NBA-style draft lottery, but management would limit it to the top three teams and the union would expand it to the top eight. Players would reward small-market teams with additional draft picks for success, such as making the playoffs or finishing with a winning record.

Baseball's ninth work stoppage—all since 1972—began on December 2, and it's the first stoppage since a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95.

Spring training is scheduled to start on February 16 in Florida and Arizona, and opening day is set for March 31.

With the need for at least three weeks of spring training and time for players to arrive and go through COVID protocols, an agreement by about March 5 is needed for an on-time start to the season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.