Through tonight at midnight, Major League Baseball’s owners and players have an agreement to, like, play baseball. At 12:01am, however, they no longer will.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement – the contract that governs the relationships between MLB’s teams and its players, and is the backbone of the professional sport – lasts through today, and expires tomorrow. Thus, having a new deal in place by the end of the day today (or at least an agreement to keep negotiating while allowing the old agreement to temporarily continue) is critical to avoid any kind of work stoppage, including a cancellation of next week’s Winter Meetings, and a cessation of all activity around the league until a deal is done.
As of last night, there were kernels of optimism that things could get done, even as the hour grew late.
So, how are things looking this morning after another night of meetings? Still modestly optimistic:
Mood surrounding @MLB labor talks remains positive, sources say, after last night's CBA negotiations stretched into early-morning hours.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2016
Owners, players met late into night on CBA. “Progress, but tough issues still to be done,” one source said.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 30, 2016
So, then, it’s still kind of a mixed bag.
At MLB.com, Richard Justice and Paul Hagen strike a similar tone, using that “optimistic” word, but noting that “several significant issues remain unresolved.” What has been difficult in these negotiations, according to Justice and Hagen, is that there is not one single, profound issue that needs agreement – instead, it’s a range of smaller issues, none of which alone should lead to a work stoppage. To me, that sounds like the recipe for a long negotiation, but one where “optimism” is always present.
Still, we’re here on the precipice of the CBA’s expiration, and still waiting. Buster Olney writes that last night was something of a turning point in the negotiations, which sounds good, though he notes the many ways in which players and agents have felt disconnected from the process this time around. Once this is all completed, it sounds like there are going to be some lessons learned for players, representatives, owners, and MLB officials.
I still think that yesterday’s Yoenis Cespedes signing is a solid signal that negotiations are going well, but I suppose there’s always a chance that – for reasons I cannot divine on the outside – the opposite is true, and there was a reason the Mets/Cespedes wanted to get the deal done before a lockout goes into effect (even without knowing how the rules might soon change).
As for now, we continue waiting.