In theory, a work stoppage has always been possible with baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement due to expire in just over a week, and no new deal in place. But with labor peace in MLB going all the way back to 1995 and no real threats of a lockout or a strike this time around, there hasn’t been any reason to fear a stoppage.
Might there now be a teeny, tiny reason to fear it?
A report tonight from Ken Rosenthal indicates MLB’s owners are considering voting to lock out the players if a new CBA is not in place by December 1, when the current agreement expires. A lockout – think the owner equivalent of a strike – would cease all Major League business until a new deal is done. No signings. No trades. No nothing.
To be sure, (1) fighting words in the late stages of a CBA negotiation (in any professional league) is not uncommon, and it’s actually been surprising how little contentious talk there has been publicly between MLB and the MLB Players Association; and (2) a lockout in early December is a lot less menacing than the threat of a lockout in, say, March.
But it would still be a thorn in the side of players who want to get contracts nailed down for their future security (and for executives who want to carry on business as usual). So, then, it’s on the table.
Will it actually happen? What are the sides still fighting about anyway?
According to Rosenthal, most of the big issues remain many of the same we discussed yesterday: draft pick compensation for free agent signings, an international draft, and the level for the next luxury tax cap. Interestingly, and contrary to what many assumed, the union is fighting hard to prevent an international draft – so much so that they rejected an ownership offer to eliminate draft pick compensation altogether in exchange for the international draft. (Many assumed that the players would not fight so hard to prevent a draft that would impact players who aren’t yet members of their union (especially when stateside players have their initial earnings limited by the draft in a way that international players do not). But it sounds like the players are fighting the draft after all, which is a nice nod to their future fellow union members.)
The overall tenor of Rosenthal’s piece is still one of positivity and a belief that a deal will get done, but perhaps it won’t be as smooth as everyone had hoped. Give it a read to help further your own sense of where things stand.
In all candor, with respect to one of the notable points of disagreement, I’d long been expecting that draft pick compensation would be overhauled significantly (as in, teams losing players still get compensation, but signing teams no longer give up a draft pick), and the international draft would be put in place. Now, that looks up in the air.
Even if a lockout actually happened, that doesn’t necessarily mean a deal couldn’t get done a week or two, or even a couple months later. It’s just that there wouldn’t be much in the way of typical offseason activity until the lockout ended.
Buster Olney rightly points out that the risk the sides would allow the 2017 season (and all the riches that flow to all sides from it) to be interrupted is incredibly small.
Nine days and counting …