JUPITER, Fla. — Major League Baseball threatened to let its 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for a labor deal pass and start canceling regular season games, saying it would make a final offer to locked out players as the clock ticked away.
The sides made progress during 16 1/2 hours of bargaining Monday but were still far apart on key issues, then recessed talks at 2:30 a.m. The union held a 2 1/2-hour call with players representatives on Tuesday and followed with an offer that MLB responded to with its threat.
“We thought there was a path to a deal last night and that both sides were closing in on the major issues,” an MLB official said, speaking on the condition he not be identified by name. “They couldn’t make us a CBT proposal [competitive balance tax] llast night, so we agreed to extend the deadline to exhaust every option.
“The MLBPA had a decidedly different tone today and made proposals inconsistent with the prior discussions. We will be making our best offer before the 5 p.m. deadline.”
The union did not publicly respond to MLB. It had cautioned when talks recessed that significant differences remained in key economic areas.
Mets star pitcher Max Scherzer and free-agent reliever Andrew Miller were present for talks, the ninth straight day of bargaining and the 90th day of the lockout.
Commissioner Rob Manfred had said Monday was the last possible day to reach an agreement that would allow the minimum time needed for spring training in order to play openers as scheduled on March 31.
The union said it didn’t necessarily agree to the timeframe.
The sides agreed Monday, subject to an overall deal, to expand the postseason from 10 to 12 teams, rather than the 14 MLB had hoped for.
On central economics, the sides were still searching for agreement. Management’s proposals included:
—Raising the luxury tax threshold from $210 million to $220 million this year, rising to $230 million.
—Setting the new bonus pool for pre-arbitration players at $25 million annually.
—Raising the minimum salary from $570,500 to $675,000 this year, with increases of $10,000 annually.
Players took the stance that all those figures were insufficient. Their start figures going into Tuesday were $245 million for the threshold, $115 million for the bonus pool and $775,000 for the minimum. The details of Tuesday’s proposal were not immediately known.
The union believed there was an understanding on luxury tax rates, which management had been proposing to substantially steepen while eliminating higher penalties for recidivist high spenders.
Players’ latest proposals contemplated giving up on expanding salary arbitration from the top 22 percent to 35 percent by service time of the players with at least two seasons of service and less than three.
Players would lose $20.5 million in salary for each day of the season that is canceled, according to a study by The Associated Press, and the 30 teams would lose large sums that are harder to pin down.
Spring training games were to have begun Saturday, but baseball’s ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995 — already has led to exhibitions being canceled through March 7.
Not since Aug. 30, 2002, has MLB come this close to losing regular-season games to labor strife. The union was set to strike at 3:20 p.m., but roughly 25 consecutive hours of meetings and caucuses culminated in an agreement at 11:45 a.m.
Ronald Blum, The Associated Press