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MLB and the players finally lock up in a marathon bargaining session

Owners and players worked late into the night to complete a new collective bargaining agreement, but it’s still a ways from a done deal.

MLB: Lockout The Palm Beach Post-USA TODAY NETWORK

Monday’s bargaining meetings between Major League Baseball and the players’ union in Jupiter, Florida, started at noon and lasted deep into the early morning hours. The league has insisted that February 28th was the date that a deal would have to be done to avoid losing regular season games for weeks now, but showed zero sign of urgency until ramping up talks over the weekend. There wasn’t any optimism coming into Monday’s epic face-off. Yet finally, against the deadline, the owners engaged and on every front there was progress, though issues still remain unresolved.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the first to report some major concessions developing from both the players and owners’ most recent positions. His reporting was rapidly corroborated by the many national baseball reporters staked out Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, where the bargaining sessions are being held. Talks finally broke off after two in the morning in the east, without a done deal, but with the league postponing it’s decision to delay the regular season until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

One of the key fights was over the league’s demand for an expanded playoff format. The owners badly wanted to expand to a 14-team playoff format which could generate as much as $100 million in new revenue for the league. Instead the players appear to have met them in the middle with a 12 team format, though that’s still subject to final negotiations.

The other massive sticking point was over the league’s desire to dramatically increase the competitive balance taxes that already constitute a kind of salary cap. Those measures seemed likely to be the roadblock that would cost regular season games. Nightengale’s tweet shook a skeptical baseball world just before midnight as a result. If those two items really are nearing resolution, hope for a deal on Tuesday becomes a lot more realistic.

On several of the other key areas of contention the two parties also made significant progress but haven’t sealed the deal. The owners increased their offer for pre-arbitration bonus pool, but probably not nearly enough for an agreement. According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, the owners upped their offer for the major league minimum salary to $675,000, which is still a lot less than the players wanted but closer to some kind of meeting place in the middle. The players want a much higher threshold for the luxury taxes to apply than $220 million, but the owners bent a little on increasing the tax threshold and appear to have abandoned their demands for major increases to the actual rates charged.

Much of the framework for a deal is now in place. They’ve agreed on principal that the taxes won’t change radically, that the major league minimum needs to be increased, and that a pre-arbitration bonus pool will be created to help get younger players paid sooner, one the union’s chief goals. If the owners move substantially toward the players on those issues a deal seems very likely. Hopefully the 14-team playoff structure is off the table, though we can’t be sure. However, the two parties are still a good way apart on the actual numbers, though substantially less than they were even early on Monday, if the reporting is accurate.

No deal yet. But the owners haven’t delayed the season yet either and the engagement to bargain deep into the night at least finally showed the urgency fans would’ve appreciated weeks ago. They’ll have until 5 p.m. ET Tuesday to see if they can close the deal and start the season on time. We’ll see if the renewed sense of optimism is misplaced or not.