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MLB Lockout Day 42: Owners May Initially Focus on Minimum Salary, Tanking, and Free Agent Compensation

Chicago Cubs

The good news is that MLB and the players will tomorrow be having their first negotiation-ish session since the start of the lockout 42 days ago. It’s a touch earlier than we’d come to be expecting for the owners to finally make a counter-offer of some sort, and that, too, is good news.

But I have to continue to preach temperance on our expectations for how much tomorrow will actually move the ball forward. It’s more than zero, but, like I said yesterday, it’s almost certainly going to be a situation where the owner economic proposal is far from something that could actually be considered for a deal. You just hope it represents enough movement that the players would be justified in countering, and/or that it maybe knocks a lesser issue or two off the table.

To that end, Bob Nightengale has the first inkling of what the owners may actually offer up tomorrow. Recall, he’s generally been very reliable when it comes to reporting labor-related matters *from the owners’ perspective,* so I expect he probably has some pretty good sources on that side of things. That means you also have to take some of the framing with a grain of salt, but the information is useful.

His latest on the labor talks includes this:

MLB is not expected to address free agency or salary arbitration in their proposals, but discuss further ways to de-incentivize tanking among teams, including the elimination of draft pick compensation for teams signing free agents.

Major League Baseball has offered to increase the minimum salary from $570,500 to $600,000, which would rise to $650,000 and $700,000 through the CBA.

The union is seeking the competitive balance tax on payrolls to increase from $210 million to $245 million while the owners have offered a raise to $214 million at the outset.

That little snippet is probably not the whole of what the economic proposal will put forward, though it’s clear that Nightengale’s source(s) believed it to be the most important aspects. So, I would extrapolate then that the offer, in addition to not touching service time or arbitration, will probably not deviate on the luxury tax, either, which is going to be a non-starter for the players. Those minimum salary increases are awfully modest, especially if there is no change to arbitration payouts OR the timeline for free agency. I presume “de-incentivize tanking” is going to involve some new draft rules, though the previous iterations have been extremely soft (can’t draft in the top five three years in a row, and maybe a lottery for the top three picks). And the elimination of draft pick compensation for free agents is definitely a good thing, but it impacts so few players across baseball.

In other words, *IF* those are the major economic changes proposed by MLB – and no mention yet of what they want in return, by the way – then this offer is going to be poorly received when the particulars come out tomorrow. I’ll keep an open mind through that process because there are always important details that don’t seem to leak until after the first wave, but I’m expecting tomorrow to be a bit ugly.

But, hey, I was already expecting that! The key remains that the sides are going to exchange information starting tomorrow, and that leaves a deal POSSIBLE by the first week of February. I just wanted to prepare us all for how this is gonna go in the meantime.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.