Major League Baseball has tweaked its proposal regarding the competitive balance tax, among other changes offered in its meeting with the players' association Saturday, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN. The change to the CBT eliminates draft pick penalties for teams exceeding the first threshold while raising the threshold from previous offers in the final three years of the deal, sources said.
Sources told ESPN's Joon Lee that the players came out of the meeting unimpressed by the league's offer and that the two sides are still extremely far apart on an agreement.
MLB's proposal changes came two days after commissioner Rob Manfred said, "You're always one breakthrough away from making an agreement," as the two sides hope to make significant progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement and ending a lockout that has lasted more than two months.
Sources said MLB presented a 130-page proposal to the union covering all aspects of the CBA, big and small. With spring training camps set to open in a matter of days, the league is hoping the proposal will jump-start negotiations.
In addition to changes to the CBT, the league also presented tweaks to the minimum salary structure, increased its pre-arbitration bonus pool offer and attempted to further disincentivize service time manipulation, sources said.
The proposal does not address revenue sharing or arbitration years -- two major sticking points for the union so far.
Included in the CBT proposal is an offer to increase the first threshold. The league had proposed an increase to $220 million by 2026 but is bumping that up to $222 million, sources said. The threshold would still start at $214 million in 2022.
By eliminating the nonmonetary penalty for going past $214 million, MLB hopes it will incentivize teams close to the first threshold to keep spending.
Under previous rules and proposals, teams would have given up a third-round pick in the amateur (and potentially international) draft for exceeding that threshold, but that has been eliminated in this proposal, sources said. So in the first year of the agreement, teams with payrolls from $214 million to $234 million would no longer lose a draft pick.
Stiffer financial penalties would still exist at all thresholds compared to the last CBA, although only four teams have ever exceeded the $234 million mark.
The union, however, wants a significantly higher threshold.
MLB has indicated that it won't move off the status quo on years to arbitration or revenue sharing, so Saturday's framework might not be the game-changer needed to break the deadlock.
Most teams are set to open camp Monday or Tuesday, but that is not likely as the sport remains in a lockout instituted by the owners in December.
Other highlights from Saturday's proposal by the league, according to sources:
Previously, MLB had offered straight salaries of $615,000, $650,000 and $700,000 for zero- to 3-year players. On Saturday, it bumped up that final year to $725,000.
MLB also offered a new option: a straight minimum of $630,000 in the first year of the deal with the ability for teams to give raises as they see fit -- as they have done in the past -- in Years 2 and 3 before players hit arbitration. That also means players can be "renewed" for smaller raises.
The jump to $630,000 would double the increase the players received between the most recent two CBAs but is still less than the union's desire for a $775,000 minimum salary.
Pre-arbitration bonus pool
The league increased its offer from $10 million to $15 million while offering a six-person panel -- three from each side -- to develop a mutually agreeable WAR statistic to allocate the funds. The top 30 players in WAR and award winners would be eligible for the bonus pool.
The union has asked for a $100 million bonus pool, down from a previous offer of $105 million.
Service time manipulation
The league increased the incentive for teams to keep their best prospects in the majors, offering them two draft picks within the player's first three years if he finishes in the top three in Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or MVP voting. Previously, the league had offered one extra draft pick per player within his first three years.
Under the new scenario, the Chicago Cubs would have received an extra draft pick after Kris Bryant won Rookie of the Year in 2015 and another pick the next year, when he was the National League MVP. But that would have happened only if Bryant had been credited with a full year of service time. He was about 10 days short in 2015 as the Cubs broke camp with him in the minors.
Roster continuity: The rule would limit the total number of minor league options in a season to five, though its contingent on giving the league the authority to limit the number of minor league players in each organization.
Pre-draft physical: Call this the Kumar Rocker rule after the 2021 New York Mets draft pick wasn't signed by the team last summer because of health concerns. Under the league's proposal, players can submit a pre-draft physical, and if a team selects them, it is required to pay the player at least 75% of slot value and he can't be failed by the team in a post-draft physical.
Draft and follow: The league is offering to reinstitute a policy by which teams can draft a player who might not be ready for professional baseball and send him to junior college for one year. The player could then be signed for up to $225,000 the next year. The policy is meant to help players who display ability but haven't had much playing time or are not mature enough for professional baseball.
The changes in the league's latest proposal are part of the larger CBA framework that still would include an NBA-style lottery draft, the elimination of draft pick compensation for free agents, an increase in the Rule 4 draft pool, a universal designated hitter and expanded postseason. The league wants 14 teams in the playoffs. The players have countered with 12.