clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB pushes back the season opener to April 14

Is a deal close? Or is the season doomed?

MLB Owners Meetings Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

After several days of negotiations this week, owners and players closed the gap on some key issues, but were unable to reach agreement on a deal by MLB’s self-imposed deadline to play a full 162-game schedule. On Wednesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the removal of games from the second week of the schedule, pushing back Opening Day to April 14. The Royals would be scheduled to begin the season at home on Thursday, April 14 against the Detroit Tigers.

Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement expressing regret for the cancellation.

In a last-ditch effort to preserve a 162-game season, this week we have made good-faith proposals that address the specific concerns voiced by the MLBPA and would have allowed the players to return to the field immediately. The Clubs went to extraordinary lengths to meet the substantial demands of the MLBPA. On the key economic issues that have posed stumbling blocks, the Clubs proposed ways to bridge gaps to preserve a full schedule. Regrettably, after our second late-night bargaining session in a week, we remain without a deal.

Because of the logistical realities of the calendar, another two series are being removed from the schedule, meaning that Opening Day is postponed until April 14th. We worked hard to reach an agreement and offered a fair deal with significant improvements for the players and our fans. I am saddened by this situation’s continued impact on our game and all those who are a part of it, especially our loyal fans.

The MLBPA issued a response.

Manfred had indicated that despite previously wiping out the first week of the schedule, there was hope they could make up those games through doubleheaders if a deal was reached by this week, but it remains to be seen if any of these games can be made up at this point.

The two sides have made progress on some of the larger points of contention - the competitive balance tax, minimum salaries, and compensation for pre-arbitration eligible players, although there still remains some differences. Players are currently awaiting a counterproposal from owners.

One sticking point that has arisen recently is a proposal by owners to subject international amateur players to a draft in exchange for dropping free agent draft compensation through the Qualifying Offer system. The proposed international draft would begin in 2024 with owners looking to reform the current signing system that has led to intermediaries preying on teenage amateurs, skimming money off their bonuses, with teams illegally agreeing to terms with players before they are old enough to sign. A draft would also help control costs for players, although MLB did already implement a bonus pool cap on international signings in 2016.

However, some players have taken to Twitter to dispute the notion that the international draft issue is the major sticking point at this point.

According to reporting from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, owners presented three options with players on the issue.

• Study an international draft, and if it is not accepted by the union by Nov. 15, reopen the entire CBA after the 2024 season; additionally, remove direct draft-pick compensation.

• Take the international draft out of the deal and maintain direct draft-pick compensation.

• Implement the international draft in 2024 in exchange for the removal of direct draft-pick compensation.

Players rejected these options and asked for more time to study the international draft issues. Several players, particularly Latin American players, have expressed objection to the idea of a draft for international players, although Dominican star David Ortiz expressed openness to the idea.

“Taking time — that makes more sense,” Ortiz said. “OK, guys, let’s keep up this pace to do it three, four years from now. We sit down with the big-time players. We listen to what they have to say. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right. Rushing it like this is not right.

Passan also reports that a potential deal could include shortening the process for rule changes to pave the way for a pitch clock, ban on defensive shifts, and larger bases in 2023, a universal designated hitter role, a six-team draft lottery, draft-pick incentives for teams to avoid service time manipulation, limiting the number of times a player can be optioned to five, advertising patches on uniforms, and expanding the playoffs to 12, although owners are still pushing for 14 post-season teams.

A deal seems tantalizingly close at this point, yet also frustratingly far. There are no formal meetings scheduled yet for today, although the two sides are expected to talk.