Baseball lockout talks to resume Saturday as season approaches

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after recording the final out to beat the Dodgers and send the Braves to the World Series. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts after recording the final out to beat the Dodgers and send the Braves to the World Series. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

ORLANDO, Fla. — Major League Baseball and its locked-out players agreed to resume negotiations Saturday after an 11-day break.

The session in New York will follow three days of owners' meetings in Orlando that end Thursday and three days of players' association sessions in Arizona and Florida. It will be just the fifth negotiating session on core economics since the lockout started in early December.

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Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to hold a news conference Thursday following the end of the owners’ meetings. He has not publicly addressed the standoff since Dec. 2, the day the lockout began following the expiration of the sport’s five-year labor contract.

There is virtually no chance spring training workouts can start as scheduled on Feb. 16, a casualty of baseball's ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995.

At the last bargaining session on core economics, on Feb. 1, the union lowered its proposed pool of money for pre-arbitration-eligible players from $105 million to $100 million. The union also cut the number of players it wants credited with an additional year of major league service to the top 20 at each position in each league by WAR, or the top seven, depending on position, down from 30 and 10.

MLB asked two days later that the union agree to have the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service enter talks, a proposal the union rejected last Friday.

A minimum of three weeks of training and exhibition games are needed to start the season, with additional time beforehand for players to report to training camps and undergo COVID-19 protocols.

Players don’t start accruing salaries until the regular season, scheduled to start on March 31.

The union has asked that the luxury tax threshold, designed to slow spending by high-revenue teams, be raised from $210 million to $245 million, and teams have offered $214 million.

MLB proposed raising the major league minimum salary from $570,700 to $615,000 for players with less than a year of big league service — but with a provision teams couldn’t pay more than that amount — $650,000 for at least one year but less than two and $700,000 for at least two. Players have proposed a $775,000 minimum.

Players are asking that salary arbitration eligibility be expanded to those with two years of service, its level from 1974 through 1986, when it increased to three years. In the expired agreement, it was three years plus the top 22% by service time of players with at least two years but less than three.

MLB says it will not expand salary arbitration and will not decrease revenue sharing, which also is a union proposal.