MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media Thursday morning on the final day of the Owners Meetings in Orlando. The expectation coming in was that he would be formally delaying the start of Spring Training. However, that did not happen as Manfred said that the league intends to make a formal proposal to the MLBPA on Saturday.
Rob Manfred says “the status of spring training is no change right now. … We understand where that calendar is.” Manfred is saying the league needs to speak with the MLBPA on Saturday. So it would seem he is not announcing an official delay to spring training today.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 10, 2022
The session was a bit contentious to start as Manfred was hit with a variety of questions on the lockout. One of the first questions was about the perception that the league waited so long to start negotiating to which he replied “That’s a mutual responsibility of both parties. Phones work two ways.” With that answer, he skipped right over the fact that it was the owners that instituted the lockout in the first place.
So the attention will now turn to Saturday’s proposal to the union. Manfred said that the league has agreed to institute the Universal DH and will eliminate draft pick compensation. A lottery system for the draft was also mentioned as a way to address competitive balance issues.
“The clubs, our owners completely understand how important it is to our fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible. We have proposed an agreement that is better in every respect than the current agreement,” Manfred said.
The league is hoping that Saturday’s proposal will move the players towards an agreement. What is unclear is what the rest of the core economics looks like.
“We are going to make a good faith, positive proposal in an effort to move the process forward,” Manfred added.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that a league spokesperson said that Manfred misspoke about the Competitive Balance Tax during the media session. Manfred said that the penalties for exceeding the tax were status-quo from the previous deal but that apparently isn’t the case.
A league spokesman said Rob Manfred misspoke about the competitive-balance tax today. What Manfred said was not true. He suggested the penalties for exceeding it are status quo. They are not. Each of the three thresholds is higher. Additionally, draft-pick penalties are higher.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 10, 2022
Manfred also said that he believed that the players needed about four weeks of Spring Training in order to safely prepare for the season. He added that it would likely take less than a week after a deal is reached to open camps.
When asked about the regular season, Manfred said that it would be “disastrous” to miss regular season games. He remained optimistic that they will have an agreement in place in time to start the regular season as it is currently scheduled.
“I am an optimist,” Manfred said. “I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular season schedule.”
That all sounds good on the surface, but it remains to be seen how it will be received by the players. Does the league offer enough in the core economic areas to move the needle? Without seeing the entire proposal it is hard to tell. The union had a stated goal of getting players paid more earlier in their careers. Manfred said that the owners shared that vision. Will this proposal be enough to keep the two sides negotiating?
We will find out Saturday.