Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred canceled 93 more games Wednesday, appearing to close the remaining chance to play a full 162-game schedule and threatening locked out players with loss of salary and service time.
After the sides narrowed many economic differences and became bogged down over management's attempt to gain an international amateur draft, MLB announced two additional series had been canceled through April 13. That raised the total to 184 games wiped out from the 2,430-game regular season, or 7.6%.
"Because of the logistical realities of the calendar, another two series are being removed from the schedule, meaning that opening day is postponed until April 14," Manfred said.
The union's latest counteroffer was hand delivered by chief negotiator Bruce Meyer to MLB's office after he walked three blocks through a wintry mix from union headquarters.
While the gaps slimmed on the luxury tax, pre-arbitration bonus pool and minimum salary, management continued to press for its long-held goal of an international amateur draft. Players have repeatedly rejected the proposal since it was made on July 28.
"The owners' decision to cancel additional games is completely unnecessary," the union said in a statement. "After making a set of comprehensive proposals to the league earlier this afternoon and being told substantive responses were forthcoming, players have yet to hear back."
MLB said it would not make a new counteroffer to players unless the union first chose one of three options: agreeing to the international draft in exchange for the elimination of direct amateur draft pick compensation for qualified free agents; keeping compensation in exchange for MLB dropping the international draft proposal; or dropping compensation while giving players until Nov. 15 to accept an international draft starting in 2024 while giving MLB the right to re-open the labor contract after the 2024 season if players fail to accept the draft.
On the 98th day of baseball's first work stoppage since 1995, the last alternative would leave open the possibility of another labor conflict in less than three years between parties that regard each other with disdain.
Players rejected all three options and instead proposed to drop compensation for this year, have the sides agree to a draft by Nov. 15 or then revert to compensation for the 2022-23 offseason.
"In a last-ditch effort to preserve a 162-game season, this week we have made good-faith proposals that address the specific concerns voiced by the MLBPA and would have allowed the players to return to the field immediately," Manfred said. "The clubs went to extraordinary lengths to meet the substantial demands of the MLBPA. On the key economic issues that have posed stumbling blocks, the clubs proposed ways to bridge gaps to preserve a full schedule. Regrettably, after our second late-night bargaining session in a week, we remain without a deal."
Opening day was to have been March 31 but has been wiped out by baseball's ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995.
If April 14 games are canceled and players do not receive credit for service time in the eventual settlement, free-agent eligibility would be pushed back for many players, including Shohei Ohtani from 2023 to 2024, Pete Alonso from 2024 to 2025, Jake Cronenworth from 2025 to 2026 and Jonathan India from 2026 to 2027.
Players dropped their threshold for the luxury tax to $232 million this year, with increases to $235 million in 2023, $240 million in 2024 and $245 million in 2025 and $250 million in 2026.
Players had been at $238 million to $263 million in their previous proposal of a week earlier. They were within 2.5% of management's starting figure of $230 million in Tuesday's proposal. Players were within 3.2% of MLB's $242 million for 2026.
Management's desire for an additional fourth tax threshold at $60 million above the first threshold is among the contentious points remaining.
Players dropped to $65 million from $80 million for their proposed bonus pool for pre-arbitration-eligible players, a day after MLB raised its offer from $30 million to $40 million. The union is asking for $5 million annual increases, while management's offer is the same for all five years.The union dropped its proposed minimum salary to $710,000 from $725,000, a figure rising to $780,000 by 2026.
Management is at $700,000 this year, rising to $770,000. The union's proposals on the tax threshold and bonus pool were first reported by The Athletic.
In the proposal for an international draft, teams would rotate picking in different quadrants of the first round over a four-year period, A slotting system would be installed similar to what the union agreed to starting in 2012 for the amateur draft covering residents of the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.
The international draft proposal includes hard slots that could not be negotiated by individuals. MLB estimates $17 million in additional spending for the drafted international players above the $166.3 million spent by the 30 teams in 2021, plus an additional $6 million on non-drafted players. The draft would start in 2024.
International players would lose the right to pick which team they sign with. The age for the draft would be in the year a player turns 16.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.