Throughout the major league baseball off-season, there are all sorts of deadlines and critical dates, whether it is the deadlines for offering or turning down qualifying offers, the deadline for setting the 40 man rosters, the date for the Rule 5 draft, the date for exchanging arbitration figures and on and on. But this off-season, there is another critical date that occurs this week. On Wednesday, December 1st at midnight, the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players union expires, and all indications are that it will expire before a new deal.
Here is a little FAQ on this…..
Q. Is there a chance of an agreement coming to place before the deadline?
A. Sure. The parties will be meeting on Wednesday, and indeed, they could come to an agreement before the deadline. We don’t know where the negotiations are at this point. But the gut feeling here is that there are a lot of issues to be ironed out, and there needs to be a lot more posturing and gamesmanship before this is put to bed.
Q. If there is no agreement by the end of Wednesday, does this mean a lockout, strike, and/or, most importantly, cancellation of baseball games?
A. It likely means the owners will opt to lock out the players and, more importantly, suspend all further business (trades, free-agent signings, arbitration offerings). Obviously, the two sides would have a lot of time and opportunity to come to a settlement before this would affect actual games, but based on what happened in the 2020 debacle, there is not a lot of confidence that they will come to an agreement quickly.
Q. What types of issues are out there that need to be ironed out?
A. Well, the players have already expressed that they thought they did not get a good deal last time. Of course, what else would you expect them to say. But there may likely be fallout from the 2020 season, when after failing in negotiations, the commissioner, Rob Manfred, imposed the conditions for the season. There will likely be negotiations over how young players are handled versus service time and how the teams manipulate it. There will likely be negotiations over the arbitration process when it kicks in and how many years it lasts.
The players will want to get rid of the luxury tax or modify it. They will want to push for teams to have a minimum amount they should be spending per season (if you have a high-end tax, maybe you should have some motivation for teams not to go below a specific figure?). The Universal DH, which seemed like a slam dunk and a small win for the players (a DH who plays every day makes more than a bench guy who plays occasionally), will undoubtedly be discussed. Roster sizes, extra-inning rules, the three batter minimum rule for relievers, COVID protocol, support for the minor leaguers and many other issues will be discussed.
A lot of these items, in the end, may not change from the current rules, but they all have value as trading chips in the negotiations.
Q. Is there any likely fall out from the lockout and suspension of business?
A. Some fallout is already happening as there is a flurry of activity ahead of the deadline. As a friend of the blog, Old Pro wrote yesterday, some may want to sign under the devil they know agreement rather than the devil they don’t know.
The other fallout might be a much more compressed time situation for free agency, which would favor the owners as there would be less time for back and forth with agents, and there might be some fringe candidates settling for smaller/shorter contracts to make sure they have a job.
Q. Will the stoppage, if there is one, cost real season games?
A. Well, they would have to be idiots to not come to an agreement before then, right? On the other hand, idiotic things have occurred before. Dan P would say there is about a 5-10% chance of this affecting the regular season. Both sides have seen reduced money, especially in 2020, and they need to be building this brand back, not alienating folks who are just now getting comfortable with in-person ball games.
Any other questions you want to ask of Dan P and his Magic 8 ball?