Major League Baseball kicked off a lockout early Thursday after a couple of meetings Wednesday left the league and the Players Association stuck in negotiations.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement expired at 11:59 pm ET on Wednesday, prompting Major League Baseball to enter its first work stoppage since 1994-95, ending more than 26 years of labor peace.
“Today is a difficult day for baseball, but as I have said all year, there is a path to a fair settlement and we are going to find it,” Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “I have no doubt that the League and the Players share a fundamental appreciation for the sport and a commitment to its fans. I remain optimistic that both parties will seize the opportunity to work together and grow, protect and strengthen the sport that we love so much. “
The work stoppage comes to hinder one of the busiest dead seasons in years, as a wave of players signed last-minute pacts on the Wednesday prior to the expiration of the Collective Labor Agreement. Over the past month, Major League Baseball teams have committed more than $ 1.7 billion in free-agent signings and an additional $ 500 million in contract extensions.
Any additional signatures will have to wait until a new Collective Labor Agreement is signed, since transactions within Major League Baseball – involving all players on each team’s 40-up roster and others considered members of the Association – are not allowed during the lockout. (Transactions within Minor Leagues are allowed) Association and team members are also prohibited from communicating with each other until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed.
This week’s meetings in Irving, Texas, saw very little progress between the two sides. Wednesday’s session ended earlier than planned, about eight hours before the expiration of the Collective Labor Agreement.
MLB and MLBPA met for 45 minutes Wednesday morning. Then, after suspending the talks for a moment, they met again to continue their talks. According to various sources, the league attended that second meeting with the idea of breaking the deadlock, offering a direct path by putting aside certain issues between both parties. The Association quickly rejected them, causing the meeting to end after only seven minutes.
The two parties no longer met again on Wednesday, prompting the league to decide to implement the lockout.
“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect Players’ desire for a fair contract,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and promotes the rights and benefits of our members.”
The Association’s primary goal has been a significant revamp of the sport’s economic system, including three key components that have been part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for decades: Free agency after six years of service, Super Two eligibility, and profit sharing.
According to multiple sources, MLB proposals filed last week included a series of player concessions that included an NBA-style draft lottery, a universal designated hitter, an increase in the player’s minimum wage, and an increase to the threshold of the Competitive Balance Tax, plus the elimination of the qualified offer system, which would eliminate the compensation of draft selections of all free agents.
MLB also offered a 14-team postseason format that would have raised the Competitive Balance Tax threshold from $ 210 million to $ 214 million, eventually going as high as $ 220 million. The most recent proposal of the Association, which initially asked for US $ 248 as a threshold for the Competitive Balance Tax, had fallen to US $ 245 million, leaving a fairly wide gap between both parties.
The Association also came up with a couple of ideas to expand the postseason to 12 teams, one of which included a realignment that would create two divisions in each league – one with eight teams and one with seven.
“To be clear: This difficult but important step does not necessarily mean that games will be canceled,” Manfred wrote in his letter. “In fact, we are taking this step now because it accelerates the urgency to reach an agreement with the longest possible time frame to avoid damaging the 2022 season.”