MLB lockdown talks to resume Tuesday ahead of spring training

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NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball labor negotiations are set to resume Tuesday, just over two weeks before the scheduled start of lockout-threatened spring training.

The sport’s ninth work stoppage began on December 2 after a five-year labor contract expired, and the sides did not meet again on central economic issues until January 24, when the players withdrew their proposal for a more liberalized free agency.

Management responded the next day by withdrawing its more limited salary arbitration proposal. The clubs also agreed to the union’s framework to funnel additional funds to pre-arbitration eligible players from central revenue, offering a $10 million pool based on rewards and warfare. The union demanded $105 million for the group, typically about 30 players a year.

Tuesday’s session will be the first on central issues since then, and the sides disagree on many economic proposals, leaving very little time to end the lockdown and avoid disrupting the scheduled start of spring training February 16. Players would need several days to travel to team compounds in Arizona and Florida, as well as time to follow COVID-19 protocols.

This is likely the last week to reach an agreement that would allow for a timely start to spring training. The owners are due to meet Feb. 8-10 in Orlando, Florida, making it less likely that there will be any negotiations during those days.

Given the need for at least three weeks of training, the opening day of March 31 would be in jeopardy if there is no agreement by the end of February or the beginning of March.

Players want arbitration eligibility extended to those with at least two years of major league service, its 1974-86 level. Since 2013, eligibility only includes the top 22% in terms of service time among those who are at least two years old but less than three.

The clubs say they will not consider refereeing changes or changes that would reduce revenue sharing. The players have offered to cut revenue sharing by $30 million a year, a projection that management disputes.

The players also want new structures to combat alleged time-on-duty manipulation and have proposed raising the minimum wage from $570,500 to $775,000 this season. Management proposed a minimum of $615,000 for players with less than a year of major league service, but with a provision teams could not pay more than that amount.

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