International project features key talking point in ABC talks

11:46 p.m.: Nicholson-Smith reiterates that the international draft has become a key sticking point (Twitter connections). He learns that the league considers it a crucial feature of any deal, but the union still has concerns about including it in a deal.

11:26 p.m.:’s Jon Morosi tweet that the league has received the counterproposal from the MLBPA and is currently reviewing it.

11:20 p.m.: The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes tweet that the league and the union are meeting right now. The plan is to continue negotiations even though the MLB-mandated midnight deadline has passed on the East Coast. It is unclear whether the union has officially made its counter-offer.

10:14 p.m.: Nicholson Smith hears that the union has discussed the possibility of reducing its demand on the pre-arb bonus pool to $70 million this season, followed by increases of $5 million per year. That would still be a pretty big gap above the league’s proposed $40 million high mark, though it’s down $10 million — the same amount as MLB’s most recent move — compared to its last offer.

10:10 p.m.: Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi from the Sportsnet report (Twitter connections) that some players are “encouraged” by the league’s move on the base economy. However, the union expressed concern about the possibility of an international draft, which would inherently imply that these players would no longer have a choice of their first employer. This is of particular concern to some Latin American players, according to Sportsnet.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the union will soon return a counter offer, with several reports indicating that discussions this evening could continue into the wee hours of the morning. Nicholson-Smith describes the international draft/qualifying offer as the biggest hurdle, learning that the sides are “close” on the numbers for things like CBT and the pre-arb bonus pool (Twitter connections).

9:35 p.m.: Sawchik adds that the ‘gap has closed’ today, but he warns that there are ‘still issues to work out’. Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe tweet that some on the player side don’t believe a deal is close to being finalized. The union is still reviewing the terms of the league’s offer.

9:17 p.m.: MLB’s proposal contained a 12-team postseason field, reports Travis Sawchik of The Score (on Twitter). According to Sawchik, the union was only ready for a 14-team playoff that would have introduced “phantom victory” for division winners, an idea that proved a non-starter for the league.

8:44 p.m.: Drellich and Ken Rosenthal report that the league offered a bonus pool that would remain stable at $40 million each season for the duration of the CBA. This would involve an annual payment of $1.33 million from each of the league’s 30 teams, which would count towards each club’s luxury tax calculations. Athletic also reports the year-over-year breakdown the league is proposing on both the base tax threshold and the league’s minimum salary (annual CBT and minimums, respectively):

2022: $230 million, $700,000
2023: $232 million, $715,000
2024: $236 million, $730,000
2025: $240 million, $750,000
2026: $242 million, $770,000

Additionally, Drellich and Rosenthal report a pair of important conditions the league attached to its most recent proposal (Twitter connections). Most notably, MLB hopes to introduce a fourth level of penalty at luxury tax thresholds. Under the last CBA, there was a base tax threshold (set at $210m in 2021) followed by additional tax tiers for clubs that a) exceeded the tax by $20m to $40m and for b) clubs that exceeded the tax by more than $40 million, with greater penalties for clubs for reaching each level. The league’s latest proposal would add a third tier of top-up for teams that exceed the base tax marker by more than $60 million (with likely even more penalties) in an obvious effort to prevent teams from going over the thresholds, like the Dodgers did last year and like many believe the Mets are ready to do in 2022.

Additionally, MLB ties the introduction of an international draft to the elimination of the qualifying bid. Removing compensation from draft picks for signing free agents has been one of the union’s goals throughout the process. Drellich learns MLB is also seeking expedited clearance for all rule changes, which would only be made during an offseason.

Athletic report a few other minor provisions from the league’s latest offer. MLB is ready to make the first six picks in the national amateur draft determined by lottery — it was previously five — with limits on the number of consecutive seasons a club could be eligible for based on the size of the market. The league’s proposal would also include a limit on the number of times a player can be drafted to the minors in a season (five), award a full year of service time to the top two finishers when voting for the rookie of the year and would award teams additional draft picks to carry high-performing players on their opening-day rosters.

7:57 p.m.: Yesterday, Major League Baseball set its final deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement tonight to preserve a 162-game schedule. The league and the Players Association met throughout the day. The content and details of these conversations have remained relatively low-key, although some details have begun to leak out.

Most notably, Evan Drellich and Andy McCullough of the Athletic Report (on Twitter) that the league offered a small markup on the competitive balance fee. The league is now proposing to set the base CBT threshold at $230 million in 2022 and would see that figure rise to $242 million by the end of a five-year CBA. That’s an increase of $2 million in the first year and $4 million by 2026 over the league’s offer yesterday. Whether the union moved on the tax today is unclear; Previously, the MLBPA had sought a figure of $238 million for the upcoming season, which would rise to $263 million by the end of the CBA’s term.

It would appear to be a minor move in favor of the players on the surface, although Drellich warns the rest of the league’s offer is unclear. Yesterday’s proposal for a $228 million base tax marker would come with ‘major strings attached’, and The Athletic reports today that MLB’s offer contains ‘other issues players are concerned about’ .

Without knowing all the terms of the league’s offer, it’s impossible to presume if the sides are progressing towards some kind of agreement. In addition to CBT, major talking points include expanding the playoff field, the extent of a bonus pool to reward excellent pre-offer players, and the league’s desire to institute a repechage for international amateurs. MLB also pushed to expedite the process by which it could implement on-field rule changes.

The union agreed last week to give the league the power to implement a few specific changes more quickly – namely a restriction on defensive changes, larger bases and a launch clock. However, MLB seeks broad autonomy to unilaterally implement any on-field rule changes within 45 days of notification to the union. Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports tweeted this afternoon, this accelerated window was part of the conditions attached to the league’s desire to increase the luxury tax (although this is unlikely to be the only compromise).

Dorsey also adds that the league could be aiming for some form of “overspending penalty.” It’s unclear what form that would take, although the union flatly pushed back against league efforts earlier in negotiations for tougher penalties for teams that exceeded the luxury tax. MLB has agreed to remove them from the table, but it’s possible the league is hoping to reintroduce something to that effect in exchange for raising the thresholds themselves.

As for the bonus pool, there was an immediate discrepancy of $50 million when last checked. MLB had offered to allocate $30 million per year to this system for the duration of an agreement. The syndicate requested $80 million for this pool in 2022 and wanted that number to grow by a few million dollars each year thereafter. Dorsey hears the league might be willing to go $50 million on the bonus pool, but ties that to signing the union on a 14-team postseason. The MLBPA has said it’s open to a 14-team playoff, but would prefer a 12-team system, and it’s unclear whether MLB going from $30 million to $50 million on the bonus pool would be a sufficient incentive in the eyes of the union.

The parties continue to discuss these issues with the goal of bridging the gap tonight. The league has already canceled the first two series of the regular season. He said those games could be made up if agreed today, but MLB suggested another week of games would be scrapped if the sides didn’t agree in the next few hours.

Jessica C. Bell