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.
“We need a system that satisfies our competitive-balance concerns and basically keeps the overall economics where they are — but at the same time addresses the issues that they’re going to bring to us,” said Halem, who joined the league office in 2007.
“I always tell our owners, ‘Midterm bargaining is hard,’” Halem added. “Trust me, there’s things since I’ve been here that many of our clubs have wanted to change midterm, and my answer to them is, ‘Look, we agreed to it, we live with it — until the next time.’ But given that I’m paid and Tony is paid to do labor relations, it’s our obligation to talk to each other about the issues, big or small, as much as the other side wants to. If you can reach agreement, great, but if not, hopefully it can have some benefit down the road.”
Some of the more pressing issues for the union, according to interviews with officials, agents and players, include establishing a more competitive environment among the 30 teams; restoring meaningful free agency; ending service-time manipulation; and, perhaps most important, establishing a system that rewards players — especially young players, who currently have little leverage and, thus, limited earning power — for the value they actually produce.