Major League Baseball implemented a lockout on December 2, putting a freeze on MLB free agency and putting spring training in jeopardy. Now, with negotiations on a new CBA just beginning, MLB is reportedly indicating it’s ready to cancel games.
After a free-agent frenzy to begin the offseason, the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players’ union expired on Dec. 1 at 11:59 PM EST. Once the agreement expired, MLB officials instituted a lockout that put a freeze on major-league transactions, activity and forbids players from communicating with coaches, trainers or team medical staff.
While commissioner Rob Manfred and club owners and the MLB Players Association held meetings in December regarding the work stoppage, Sports Illustrated reported the two sides never held joint talks and no offers were made.
The two sides renewed negotiations in early January but didn’t hold in-person meetings until Monday. During those meetings, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said the league is willing to lose games rather than meet certain MLBPA demands for a new CBA.
Players have pushed for adjustments to service-time rules for years. Under the current CBA, a team can hold the contractual rights of a player for the first six seasons of their MLB career. Under those deals, teams typically pay them close to the minimum salary.
The union also believes teams are guilty of service-time manipulation, hold a player who is ready to make a major-league impact down in the minors until a predetermined date that guarantees an additional year of contract control.
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When will the MLB lockout end?
If the league and players’ union is able to negotiate a new CBA before the second week in February, spring training could start on time. But the current state of talks and what the MLBPA views as a threat to cancel games suggests a resolution isn’t close.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan previously reported that the union’s offer for a new CBA included raising the minimum MLB salary from $570,500 to $775,000. In addition, the luxury tax threshold would be increased to $245 million in an effort to increase spending. But many team owners have made efforts to trim payroll in recent years
“Some on the players’ side were irked, too, by Rockies owner Dick Monfort, the chair of commissioner Rob Manfred’s seven-owner labor policy committee. Monfort, people with knowledge of the meeting said, complained about the difficulty at least some owners have affording teams, and the ancillary costs of ownership such as security and COVID-19 measures.”The Athletic’s Evan Drellich on issues between MLB, players’ union
Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortened 2020 season, MLB enjoyed record-setting revenue ($10.3 billion in 2019) every year. While the total revenue for 2021 isn’t publicly known, the Atlanta Braves set franchise records for revenue before winning the World Series.
Despite MLB’s profits increasing with new TV contracts signed, player salaries are dropping. The Associated Press found in April 2021 that player salaries dropped 4.8% in two years and Forbes reported in December that total payrolls were reduced by $168 million from the 2019 season.
Both sides believe that a delayed start to spring training would not cause too many issues, providing a longer negotiation window on a new CBA. But if February comes to an end without a deal in place, Opening Day 2022 will be in serious jeopardy.