The end of the first week of January is here, with no new talks. Still. 37 days and counting. But maybe something is coming down the pipe later this month …
A recent interview with Whit Merrifield had the Royals union rep offering a perspective we’ve heard before from Cubs union rep Ian Happ: the players have made the last several offers, so now it’s the owners’ turn to come to the table. As Merrifield put it:
“We had brought to them our three major points from years ago. Talking like 2-3 years ago. Three major points being competitive balance, service time manipulation, and player compensation – when players are going to get paid and how. And to each point, they pretty much just said, no, we’re not going to budge or adjust on that. We’ve brought them countless different ways to adjust it, and we’ve given them reasons why it needs to be adjusted and why it benefits not only the players, but the ownership group to adjust these points.
Again, they’ve pretty much just came out and said no. So that’s difficult to negotiate with and that’s not how negotiations go, especially when we’ve proven that it’s beneficial to not only us, but ownership, to adjust these in ways we’ve proposed. They’ve come back with nothing, so we’re at the point where we’re not going to keep throwing stuff out there against the wall. We’re going to wait for them to come to us with something, and they just haven’t done it yet.”
All fair, and it gives you a better sense on why things have been silent for a month.
Your tiny sliver of good news today is that ownership may finally be coming with their next offer.
In his long discussion of the state of things, Jeff Passan mentioned that a source told him ownership was working on “proposals to bring to the table.” Thin and uncertain, but not nothing. Then today, Evan Drellich writes about the state of things, and opens with this hopeful paragraph:
Major League Baseball is preparing new core economic proposals to deliver to the Players Association. When they’re presented, likely this month, core economic talks in the sport will have restarted for the first time since owners initiated a lockout on Dec. 2, marking a positive development.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Well, not necessarily somewhere. And maybe not getting yet, either. I don’t know – what’s the expression for when you’re almost starting to approach “getting somewhere”? That’s what this is. After 37 days of silence, the first trickle of word that the owners are going to bring new core economic proposals to the players “likely this month.” As good as new can get right now, I suppose.
About that “this month” timeline, though: I’d sure effing hope so! If ownership doesn’t even deliver PROPOSALS this month, well, then as we said earlier in the week, you can kiss any chance of a remotely normal Spring Training goodbye. There simply would not be enough time to do the actual negotiating – which is probably going to be ugly – and then have a mini-second offseason, and then have guys logistically report to Spring Training by mid-February. Proposals would probably have to come next week for that to be possible.
Realistically, knowing that the owners probably don’t hate applying as much time-related pressure as possible – hence the lockout and the silence – and knowing that players have really dug in this time around and are probably more willing than ever to use the regular season as a pressure point, I don’t expect these new ownership offers to come that soon. “Likely this month” probably means, at best, the very end of the month.
And, if recent history is a guide, the ownership proposals are probably going to be pretty darn close to what ownership was putting on the table last year (offers that were simply not even close to acceptable from the player perspective). You have to hope it gets the sides talking again, though, and that your worst case is a month of negotiating from there, a new deal by March 1, and Spring Training gets chopped down to the bare minimum in order to preserve Opening Day.
That’s not actually the worst case scenario, of course, it’s just the worst case you should hope for. Hoping for a best case scenario – negotiations starting early in January, and a deal by February 1 – pretty much went out the window this week given the radio silence, and the tenor of Passan and Drellich’s reporting. So we’re left to hope that at least the regular season is not disrupted, and that feels like a 50/50 proposition at best.