Top officials from Major League Baseball and the M.L.B. Players’ Association met at the league office on Monday, the first step in a process that the union hopes will result in substantive changes to the sport’s labor agreement.
Monday’s meeting was only to discuss logistics for negotiations, officials said, but the beginning of the talks — more than two years before the current agreement expires — underscores the urgency of both sides to address the concerns of the players, who have been largely dismayed by the slow-moving free agent market the last two off-seasons and the subtext, they believe, of too many teams not spending to win.
Essentially, the union feels that younger players are rarely paid what they are worth, while veterans are now in much less demand, leading to lower salaries for what were once their prime earning years.
“We’re past the trend,” said Tony Clark, the executive director of the players’ association, in a recent interview at his midtown office. “This is how it’s going to look moving forward. In acknowledging and recognizing that, you appreciate that the system — and what I’ll call the grand bargain that was in place going back 40-plus years — is no longer reflective of the realities of today. As a result, the system doesn’t work.”
The current collective bargaining agreement, negotiated in 2016, largely upheld that reliably lucrative economic system. The deal runs through 2021, and until then M.L.B. is under no obligation to reopen it. The sides have done so in recent years to address specific topics, like performance-enhancing drug testing and penalties for domestic violence, but this is believed to be potentially the sport’s first full-scale renegotiation in the middle of a deal.
Monday’s informal meeting included Commissioner Rob Manfred, Clark and their top labor lieutenants: Dan Halem, M.L.B.’s deputy commissioner for baseball administration and chief legal officer, and Bruce Meyer, the union’s senior director for collective bargaining and legal.