MLB players, teams talk into night, openers deadline nears

Major league players remain locked out of Spring Training facilities as labor unrest between the MLBPA and owners continues. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

JUPITER, Fla. — Negotiators for locked-out players and owners held a series of short and more frequent meetings that stretched into Sunday night as talks intensified a day ahead of Major League Baseball’s deadline to salvage March 31 openers.

Teams and owners narrowed some differences Friday and Saturday. Entering the 88th day of the work stoppage they were still far apart on big issues that include luxury tax thresholds and rates, the size of the new bonus pool for pre-arbitration players and minimum salaries.

Some of those issues were in play during negotiations in which management wants the union’s agreement to expand the postseason from 10 teams to 14, two more than players have thus far been willing to accept.

MLB says that if there is not a deal by the end of Monday, there will not be enough training time to start the season as scheduled.

Between 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem made four walks from the offices in the main part of Roger Dean Stadium to the area where players caucus in the Cardinals clubhouse building beyond the right-field wall.

Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller and Marcus Semien attended the talks, a smaller group than in recent days, along with union head Tony Clark and chief negotiator Bruce Meyer. Scherzer, who lives nearby, left in late afternoon but may return.

MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword, senior vice president Patrick Houlihan and vice president Reed MacPhail also met with the union, a trio of the officials familiar with the many of the details of the intricate collective bargaining agreement. The expired contract numbered 359 pages plus separate deals covering benefits, joint drug rules and dealing with domestic violence allegations.

Baseball’s ninth work stoppage started Dec. 2. Spring training games were to have begun Saturday and have been canceled through March 7.

MLB began the day offering to raise the luxury tax threshold from $210 million last season to $214 million this year, increasing it to $220 million by 2026. Teams also want higher tax rates, which the union says tend to act like a salary cap.

Players had asked for a $245 million threshold this year, rising to $273 million by the final season.

The union wanted to expand the players with at least two seasons of major league service and less than three to the top 35%, up from the 22% cutoff in place since 2013.

The union proposed the pre-arbitration pool to have $115 million distributed to 150 players and management proposed $20 million be split among 30.