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Union makes counteroffer on 98th day of lockout

MLB: DEC 02 Major League Baseball Lockout

Brownsburg, IN - December 2: An Official Rawlings Major League Baseball sits with a bat, lock and chain to represent the lockout between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) on December 2, 2021 in Brownsburg, IN. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Negotiators for locked-out players made their latest counteroffer to Major League Baseball after Commissioner Rob Manfred let pass his deadline to reach a deal preserving a 162-game season.

The sides negotiated on and off for 16 1/2 hours until 3 a.m., then broke for the union to hold a morning conference call with its executive board.

Union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer and general counsel Ian Penny then walked three blocks through a wintry mix of rain and snow to deliver the proposal to MLB’s office, then headed back to the union headquarters.

On the 98th day of the lockout, MLB said no additional games had been canceled and talks will continue.

MLB made moves toward players on the key economic issues of the luxury tax, the amount of a new bonus pool for pre-arbitration-eligible players and minimum salaries. The league also pushed for its long-held goal of an international amateur draft.

Teams would rotate picking in different quadrants of the first round over a four-year period, and 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.

The union’s long steadfast opposition to an international draft remains an obstacle to an agreement, and MLB has tied it to dropping direct amateur draft-pick compensation for qualified free agents.

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.

The deadline was the third set by MLB in the past two weeks.

Manfred originally set a Feb. 28 deadline for preserving Opening Day on March 31. After 16 1/2 hours of bargaining in Jupiter, Florida, that began Feb. 28 and ended at 2:30 a.m. the following morning produced progress, Manfred extended that deadline to 5 p.m. the following day.

Talks broke down, and Manfred announced the first two series for each team during the season had been canceled. Negotiators returned to New York and resumed bargaining.

While it appears there is no chance Opening Day could take place as originally scheduled, MLB told the union that Tuesday was the last possible day to reach an agreement that would allow a modified 162-game schedule, along with full salary and service time needed to reach free agency for players.

MLB offered a tax threshold starting at $230 million and rising to $242 million, a person familiar with the proposal said, confirming a move first reported by The Athletic. The person, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no public statements were authorized, said management’s proposal contained tougher penalties at a higher payroll level than in the expired agreement.

The union began the week at $238 million for this year, rising to $263 million in 2026.

The union entered Monday asking for an $80 million bonus pool for this year and MLB upped its offer on Tuesday from $30 million to $40 million. MLB offered a $700,000 minimum salary for this year and the union asked for $725,000.