JUPITER, Fla. -- The Major League Baseball Players Association offered more tweaks to its latest proposals Thursday, the fourth straight day of negotiations this week with MLB, but again there was no real progress on the biggest issues holding up a new collective bargaining agreement.
The league said Wednesday that it will begin canceling regular-season games if the sides can't reach an agreement by Monday. Opening Day is scheduled for March 31.
They met for under four hours at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday with no apparent progress on issues such as competitive balance tax, minimum salary structure, salary arbitration, revenue sharing or a pre-arbitration bonus pool.
The union did narrow its ask for first-year players to be awarded service time. Previously, it requested the top-seven finishers in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) among infielders, catchers and designated hitters to receive a full year. On Thursday, it dropped that to the top five. Among outfielders and pitchers, instead of the top 20 in WAR receiving a year of service, the union asked for the top 15.
The union also eased its proposed draft penalties for losing teams, realizing that not all are tanking each year, according to sources.
Hal Steinbrenner, chairman of the New York Yankees, joined the owner's bargaining group for the first time Thursday while another large group of players also attended.
Players met with team representatives via videoconference before the sides got together, but after a mid-meeting break, where owners held their own conference call, the negotiations ended shortly thereafter.
Union sources indicated to ESPN that, from their perspective, the owners didn't have much new to say on any of the issues. The sides will meet again Friday, with just four days left before the league's Monday deadline. Frustration seems to be mounting on both sides as each awaits the other to make a breakthrough proposal. The league believes it has moved in the union's direction on several key issues but hasn't seen the same movement in return.
The union is adamant about getting younger players paid more, making requests such as a starting minimum salary of $775,000. The league has countered with $640,000.
The league's most recent proposal for a competitive balance tax threshold was $222 million in the final year of the CBA; the union has asked for $245 million.
Players want to expand Super Two eligibility in hopes of getting more players to arbitration sooner, but the league is steadfast at maintaining the status quo to the arbitration system. A similar issue exists on revenue sharing, where the union wants changes to that system but the league has indicated it won't move off the status quo.
The sides also are far apart on how much money should be in the proposed bonus pool for pre-arbitration players. The union wants $115 million. The league has come up $5 million this week and is now at $20 million in the pool.
The players even disagree with the league's assertion that games and pay won't or can't be made up if the season doesn't begin on time. They believe they can negotiate that back into a new agreement.
The sides are likely to stay in South Florida until the Monday deadline, but if Thursday was any indication, it's not more time they need. It's a new idea.