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MLB Labor Negotiations: The Deadline Approaches

The current CBA expires December 1.

Al Yellon

Representatives of MLB and the MLB Players Association continue to talk, in what’s reported to be marathon sessions, on the labor agreement that in theory has to be done by tomorrow, December 1, or the game could come grinding to a halt.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes that these long negotiating sessions have the two sides very close to a deal:

Even as the clock ticked down toward the midnight expiration of Major League Baseball's labor agreement and a potential work stoppage, MLB had yet to schedule a lockout vote by owners, sources told ESPN late Wednesday afternoon.

While that was viewed by people around the sport as another hopeful sign of progress toward a new labor deal, sources said owners have been told by MLB to be on alert Wednesday night, in case there's a need for an emergency vote either to ratify an agreement or to lock out the players if negotiations collapse.

Given there’s been no lockout vote yet, I’d think the sides must be very close to a new labor deal. Even if the deadline passes, being this close, I’d think they’d just let the proverbial clock run into overtime and keep talking until they nail it down.

Here’s the key issue that’s yet to be resolved:

Multiple sources continue to report they have made significant progress, but had yet to reach agreement on what appeared to be the last remaining major issue of disagreement - how a revised Competitive Balance Tax (a.k.a., luxury tax) would function.

Players want the tax increased by quite a bit, given the large increase in revenue the game has seen since the last agreement. Owners want it kept at the same level for 2017, then it would have increases. It would seem there’s room for compromise here.

The other issue that’s separated players and owners has been an international draft; that was scrapped the other day, but according to Stark, there could be some sort of hard cap instituted as to how much teams could spend on bonuses to international players. This is something yet to be worked out.

Other things that you might see a difference on right away: it appears players and owners have agreed on a 26-man roster before September 1 and a limit of either 28 or 29 active players after September 1. Again, details on this need to be fleshed out. There’s also going to be a push to have future seasons start a few days earlier than now, in order to give players more off days during the year, and more day games on getaway days to reduce fatigue on long flights.

There’s more, including some possible changes in the free-agent compensation system, at Stark’s link.