In one of the first signs of progress since MLB team owners instituted a lockout on Dec. 2, the league and the Major League Baseball Players Association will meet to negotiate on consecutive days.
In negotiations Monday afternoon in New York, the union dropped a proposal that would allow some players to reach free agency after five years and mitigated the changes it was seeking to revenue sharing — issues the league had expressed an unwillingness to broach.
After a two-hour meeting, representatives from the sides emerged not necessarily with momentum toward a deal, but with intentions to meet again Tuesday.
After 43 days passed between the lockout and the next bargaining session, two straight days of talks signal that conversation is opening up, if nothing else.
The players union withdrew an earlier proposal on the path to free agency that would have added an age-based system to help players nearing age 30 reach the free agent market after five years of service. The union also altered its proposal on the league's revenue sharing system to seek less drastic changes.
Those issues, along with proposed changes to arbitration eligibility, had drawn the ire of commissioner Rob Manfred, who said after initiating the lockout that the proposals would have been “bad for the sport, bad for the fans and bad for competitive balance.” The union has not pulled back on its desire for more players to reach arbitration after two seasons.
An MLB official said it was good to meet in person Monday, and good to have some of the major changes to the reserve system taken off the table, but there are still a lot of steps that need to be taken to reach an agreement.
Monday's meeting was the second negotiation session since the lockout began. In the first one, MLB made economic proposals that failed to move the needle. Spring training is slated to begin in mid-February, but much of the offseason business still remains to be completed.
MLB is expected to present a counteroffer on Tuesday, but it is unlikely to include expansive proposals on core economics.