The MLB season may be over, but battles are far from it. The league and the Major League Baseball Players Association have a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which expires Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. If the two sides don’t agree (which seems likely at this point), team owners will force a lockout, essentially stopping all major league operations.
Amid risk of work stoppage, the two groups are meeting Wednesday in Irving, Texas.
What’s the problem?
ESPN baseball expert Jesse Rogers reports that rather than animosity between the two sides, there is a disconnect.
The MLB believes it boasts the best payment rules of all American professional leagues. For one, they don’t have salary caps– something players say only benefits the best players. They also say they deal with low salaries tank during rebuilding phases to prepare for holding a better roster, one of the MLPBA’s major concerns.
According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the union also wants to decrease revenue sharing among clubhouses. The league argues these moves would make it harder to smaller clubs to remain competitive, along with changing the free agency service rule. The players want free agency eligibility to shorten from six to five years, because they feel they aren’t getting paid the money they want until their 30’s, which is after their prime. Even more so, second- and third-tier players aren’t earning as much money as they would like with the emergence of front-office analytics.
One area of progress in the Tuesday meeting, Feinsand reports, was changing the playoff format. The MLB wants to expand to a 14-team playoff league winners earning byes and division winners selecting their wild-card opponent. Meanwhile, the players union has their own idea to change the playoff.”
Eight players, including Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, are leading the way for the MLBPA.
Max Scherzer — who’s heavily involved in the MLBPA — on the CBA negotiations:
“Hearing the tone in negotiations, the lockout seems like that’s a very likely scenario, let’s say that."
— Joon Lee 이준엽 (@joonlee) December 1, 2021
Many players have reflected the sentiment that they aren’t very concerned about meeting Wednesday’s deadline.
“We have three months to really hash this out, and I don’t fear us not starting on time or anything like that,” National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper told Philadelphia’s WIP radio on Nov. 19. “The cool thing is, if something does happen, we can always sign a year extension of what we had this year. That’s always possible.”
What happens in a lockout?
With a lockout, teams are essentially refusing to allow work to be done. Players can’t participate in spring training. Perhaps most importantly, no free agents can sign. That’s why many big names, like Scherzer, have signed in the last few days.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) November 29, 2021
Free-agent reliever Raisel Iglesias closing in on four-year contract with Angels, sources tell @TheAthletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 1, 2021
Players who previously unsigned like minor leaguers could sign with teams. Of course, teams and free agents could make deals, but they would not be official.
Something to consider. It's possible for teams and free agents to "agree to terms on a deal" today and then not have the opportunity to commensurate the contract until after the lockout. Obviously would be a gentlemen's handshake situation, but it exists. Also applies to trades.
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) December 1, 2021
Other stipulations of a lockout include:
-Players and organizations can’t interact with each other. This means injured players can’t meet with training staff about their rehab.
-Coaches can’t discuss their 40-man roster with reporters.
-Players from Latin America may face issues with their visas, ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Freeze points out.
-Minor league meetings, however will continue.
Spring training play begins February 26, a good time for an agreement to be reached by.
Opening Day doesn’t arrive until March 31, which provides almost four months for to reach an agreement and be able to play a whole season. Playing any less than the full 162 games would be unlikely due to the wide-reaching negative impact for both sides.
According to ESPN’s Rogers, following COVID-19 financial losses for both sides, “Anything short of a full season would be another devastating blow to the sport, both economically and from a public relations standpoint.”
The groups have until midnight to reach a decision. Or else, they will experience their first work stoppage since the 1994-95 player’s strike.