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Another MLB deadline arrives, until the next one

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SPORTS-COLUMN-DONT-LET-MAJOR-LEAGUE-1-TB Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

We’re filling the void left by no spring training games by trying to keep track of every deadline set by Major League Baseball in labor negotiations with players. The next deadline is Tuesday, as reported Monday by Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic:

If a deal is not reached by Tuesday, then MLB has told the union the owners are likely to be unwilling to play a full 162-game schedule, or grant players full pay or service time. MLB also told the Players Association that without a deal Tuesday, MLB plans to cancel another week of games.

Tuesday’s deadline is one week after last Tuesday’s deadline, which was in itself an extension of the Monday, February 28 deadline, all of which were set by the league. On March 1, after nine straight days of negotiating in Jupiter, Florida but no deal in place, MLB canceled the first two series of the regular season.

For the Dodgers, that meant losing a seven-game homestand against the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Losing another week would mean the loss of a five-game road trip in Colorado and Minnesota.

“Our position is that games that are not played, the players will not get paid for,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said on March 1. But that, like the schedule, is negotiable, just like deadlines set by either side are arbitrary. To date, owners have set the only deadlines during their league-instituted lockout.

But what would it take for an actual deal to be struck on Tuesday, or some reasonable time thereafter? The sides aren’t all that far apart on the minimum salary, with the players’ latest offer at $725,000 in 2022 and the owners at $700,000. From Ronald Blum at the Associated Press:

The sides appear to be about $15 million apart on the minimum salary for this year, $20 million for 2023 and $25 million for 2024, each less than 1% of payrolls. This assumes about half of players in the major leagues at any given time are impacted by the minimum.

The competitive balance tax and pre-arbitration bonus pool seem to have the furthest gap, and figure to be the biggest hurdles to a deal.

The players’ last offer included a 2022 CBT threshold of $238 million, while the owners’ last offer was at $220 million in the first year of the agreement.

“People seem to think that there’s all this money coming into Major League Baseball, all this money, that we’ve recouped all the losses from COVID, everything is back to the way it was. Nothing is farther from the truth,” Yankees president Randy Levine said Monday in an interview on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. “Both parties have to prioritize what’s the most important thing to them, and negotiate the most important thing, but understanding there’s a finite amount of money. ... If you give money from the pot for young players, then there may be less money for older players in free agency, or different types of players. A fifth-year arbitration player might get non-tendered.”

Both Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Drellich at The Athletic said the league would be willing to move the CBT threshold to $228 million, which is just shy of the midpoint in Year 1. Most notably though, Drellich reported the “league’s increase is said to have major strings attached.”

The specifics of those strings seem rather important, but if last week taught us anything it’s probably best not to get any hopes up, especially if player reaction is any indication.

Tuesday will bring more talks between players and owners. There might be a deal or there might be more games canceled. Unless the deadline is extended, or we move on to the next deadline. I’ve lost track.