Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during...

Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during MLB owners meetings on Feb. 6, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Credit: AP/John Raoux

JUPITER, Fla. — MLB and the Players Association made little to no progress on the issues key to ending the sport’s lockout Monday, the first day of the hunkering-down phase of the labor negotiations, but plan to meet again Tuesday in a rare sign of urgency as threats to an on-time Opening Day grow.

The union again was disappointed in the league’s proposal, a source said. An MLB spokesman characterized the talks, which occurred in two sessions during a five-hour day, as "wide-ranging and productive."

MLB has set Feb. 28 as the deadline to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and save the start of the regular season, which is scheduled for March 31. The union believes there are a few days of wiggle room into next month.

Either way, the sides — which remain far apart on the competitive balance tax specifics and the pre-arbitration bonus pool concept — need to hurry. The talks have been relocated from New York City to South Florida, where players who live nearby can join, with the intention of meeting every day this week.

It will be the Players Association’s turn to make a proposal when they convene Tuesday, the 83rd day of the lockout but only the eighth meeting on core economic matters.

Ten players joined other union leaders for their date with MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem and league officials at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, the spring training home of the Marlins and Cardinals. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark was on site; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was not.

Among the major-leaguers present were a trio of Mets: Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor, who are on the executive subcommittee, as well as Brandon Nimmo, who is the team representative. He inherited that role when Michael Conforto, the previous rep, became a free agent.

The Yankees’ Jameson Taillon also was present. Others included Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals, Whit Merrifield of the Royals and Sonny Gray of the Reds.

The MLB contingent featured two owners: the Rockies’ Dick Monfort and the Padres’ Ron Fowler.

MLB’s proposal included slight movement in two areas: the pre-arbitration bonus pool and draft lottery.

It increased its pool amount from $15 million to $20 million, to be spread out among 30 players annually. The union most recently suggested $115 million for 150 players. This idea is meant to get more money to the best younger players, who routinely are underpaid relative to their on-field contributions.

MLB upped its draft-lottery idea to include the first four picks instead of the first three. The Players Association has been at eight. This idea is meant to discourage front offices from fielding noncompetitive teams for the sake of higher draft choices. Instead of being guaranteed the top pick, a team that finishes with the worst record in the majors would be guaranteed only one of the top four (or top eight or whatever number is settled on).

Union officials were frustrated that MLB did not further broach minimum player salaries or the competitive balance tax, and it considers the current proposed CBT penalties far too harsh — so much so that it would function as a de facto salary cap, an issue the union has fought for generations. A league spokesman noted that MLB has made the most recent proposals on the minimum salary and CBT.

Still, the increased frequency of meetings marks progress.

Their five hours in the same place represented by far their longest negotiating day during the lockout, which began Dec. 2. After meeting for an hour-plus, the sides broke up to talk among themselves for three hours. They came together for another 35 minutes before leaving the ballpark.

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