Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball Players Association...

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark speak before Game 1 of the World Series between Atlanta and the Astros on Oct. 26, 2021. Credit: AP/Ron Blum

With the second week of the regular season soon to be in jeopardy, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are scheduled to meet Sunday in Manhattan, only the second face-to-face contact between the two sides since Tuesday’s split in Jupiter, Florida.

Unlike Thursday’s informal summit, which involved a discussion of key issues by MLB’s lead negotiator Dan Halem and his union counterpart Bruce Meyer, Sunday’s session will be a return to full negotiations. The Players Association is expected to deliver its next proposal after MLB’s "last, best" offer was unanimously rejected Tuesday, prompting commissioner Rob Manfred to cancel the first two series of the regular season.

The two sides spent nine consecutive days negotiating at Roger Dean Stadium, including a Monday night session that stretched into 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, which led to an extension of Manfred’s original Feb. 28 deadline. Despite some optimism in Jupiter, Tuesday’s failed effort caused a renewal of hostilities, and there was a brief cooling off period before Halem and Meyer huddled again Thursday.

What could change this time around? Manfred canceling the first week of the regular season further complicated these already contentious negotiation, as lost salary from missed service time is going to now be a priority for the union as well. Manfred said the players will not paid for the canceled games — that’s a total of $20 million lost for each missed day — but Meyer plainly stated Tuesday that the union’s position is to fight for the 162-game salaries and the retroactive service time. Once the first 15 days of a season are scratched, the chance for a full year’s credit of service time is gone, too.

Those two issues, however, can now be used as chips worked in the bigger talks for the new collective bargaining agreement, which has centered on the Competitive Balance Tax. In MLB’s last proposal, angrily shot down by the union, the CBT thresholds were $220 million for the first three years, followed by $224M and $230M. The players are starting at $238 million, then $244M, $250M, $256M and $263M.

Another significant item on the table that could facilitate a deal is the expanded playoffs, a very important one to the owners, and that is expected to be revisited in this next round of negotiations. On Tuesday, MLB ditched its hope for a 14-team postseason and accepted 12 to please the union, which believes too much expansion will result in degraded competition and less spending to make it to October.

The owners reportedly stand to pull in $100 million from ESPN for the 14-team format, and face a significant reduction in cash for anything smaller. With those stakes, it’s possible the players could be convinced to go with 14 if MLB nudges upward in its CBT thresholds, sweetens its pre-arbitration bonus pool of $25 million to somewhere closer to the union’s $85M and gets above $700,000 on minimum salaries.

Sunday represents the next chance to prevent further damage to the regular season, and maybe the last one before the second week of games is erased as well.

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