TORONTO – The outcome MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently called ‘disastrous’ is now upon us: regular-season games will be cancelled after talks between baseball’s players and owners stalled Tuesday afternoon in Jupiter, Fla.
When bargaining sessions lasted all day Monday before extending well into the night, there was some optimism that talks were finally gaining momentum in time to reach a deal that would allow for an on-time start to the 2022 season. But MLB’s final offer didn’t move substantially on the competitive balance tax, among other issues, and the players declined it.
“It’s over,” one player said. “We felt that basically nothing was acceptable about the best and final offer.”
Regular-season games will now officially be lost to a work stoppage for the first time since the players’ 1994-95 strike.
MLB’s last, best proposal included increases in minimum salaries to US$700,000 per season, a pre-arbitration bonus pool of $30 million, suggested solutions to service time manipulation, the implementation of a five-team draft lottery and a universal designated hitter among other changes.
However, the competitive balance tax, which many agents consider a soft salary cap, did not move enough for the players’ liking. While revenues have steadily climbed decade by decade, the CBT has not risen in proportion to those increases. As such, the players sought an increase in the CBT to $245 million and later to $238 million.
Meanwhile, the owners offered to increase the CBT to $220 million for 2022-24, $224 million in 2025 and $230 million in 2026. From the players’ standpoint, those changes were not substantial enough to justify accepting.
The league initially imposed a Monday deadline then extended it to 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, saying that games would be missed with no chance of recovered salaries or games after that point. The players have given the league indications that they would take expanded playoffs off the table under those circumstances.
On Monday night, the sides had agreed to proceed with a 12-team playoff field. Under MLB’s latest proposal, the top two teams in each league would have gotten byes with the remaining four teams per league facing off.
From here, the sides are likely to return home and regroup in preparation for further talks. Until then, each day that passes will only cost the sport more games.