MLB owners, players kick off key week of negotiations with lengthy meeting

The players’ contingent, led by Bruce Meyer (left) and Tony Clark (2nd from left) arrives in Florida Monday. (Ron Blum/AP)

After months of hand wringing, impatient frustration, and endless pleas to figure this thing out, Major League Baseball and its players finally got together on Monday for a long afternoon of tangible discussion.

Convening in Jupiter, FL, a group of active players and union boss Tony Clark were inside Roger Dean Stadium with MLB’s contingent for over five hours. Three Mets (Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo), a Yankee (Jameson Taillon) and other former All-Stars (Paul Goldschmidt, Whit Merrifield and Sonny Gray) were part of the negotiations.

While the sides did not spend the entire time talking in the same room, the fact that they were physically in the same building for such a long time is certainly noteworthy. According to reports, the players and the league engaged in separate caucusing for about three hours.

Clark’s presence signals a shift in the tides, as he was not in attendance for any of the previous meetings in Midtown. Clark held a pre-meeting with the players in the stadium’s parking lot before they went in for the real deal, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort — who is also chair of the labor committee — helped lead the MLB side of negotiations. Former labor chair and current Padres owner Ron Fowler was also on hand. Other representatives from the league side spotted at the meeting, per reports, were deputy commissioner Dan Halem, executive vice president of baseball operations Morgan Sword and senior vice president Patrick Houlihan.

After about an hour and ten minutes (far longer than the 15-minute speedrun Thursday in Manhattan) both sides took a break. When talks resumed, the league bumped its proposed pre-arbitration bonus pool to $20 million. This pool, which would be divided up between young players that have outperformed their contracts, was pitched by the players in the early days of negotiations. The league agreed to the idea in late January but they remain on a very different page than the players when it comes to the dollar amount. MLB wants the pool to be $20 million for 30 players. The players, reportedly, have been thinking something closer to $115 million, which would go to 150 players.

As for tanking reforms, the league is said to have proposed a draft lottery to determine the top four picks. The players, who have been very outspoken against teams that are flagrantly not trying to win, want to see that go up to the first eight picks, per The Athletic. There were no revisions made to the competitive balance tax on Monday, which remains a major hurdle in actually getting a deal done.

The week (a week that both sides came into with the plan to meet every day) beginning with such time-intensive deliberations is, at the very least, a sign that urgency has increased. The league and the union plan to meet again on Tuesday, which is the least we can ask for at this point.