MLB Moving Far Too Slow In Labor Negotiations

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred walks to a session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 08, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho. After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, and technology worlds will converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive week-long conference.
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)


After more than five weeks of painful silence, MLB owners and the Players Association are once again discussing the details of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) document that allows all actors to resume their activities and bring baseball back.

The owners implemented a lockout on December 1, preventing teams from making any transactions involving big league players: trades, free agent signings, and others.

They can bring in players on minor league deals, announce coaches, and managers, though.

For the vast majority of organizations, however, the offseason is still incomplete, no matter how many moves they made before December.

The time that both sides missed in December, when talks were non-existent, could come back to haunt all parties involved.

On Thursday, the first meeting in more than a month took place, as MLB presented some core economic proposals to the players.


An Unsuccessful Meeting

The meeting wasn’t very successful: we always knew that there wouldn’t be a deal on Thursday, but the early results were not encouraging: both sides remain very, very far from reaching an agreement.

Jon Heyman reported that owners are extremely reluctant to lower the years before free agency from six, the current number, and getting young major leaguers paid is actually one of the players’ priorities.

If this particular point isn’t solved soon, there could be trouble.

Spring training starts in mid-February, and the first games are scheduled for the 26.

At this point, an agreement in January is virtually ruled out, and one in the first half of February is difficult to envision.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote, after the first round of bargaining of 2022, that the process is long and not expected to be done overnight.


Will Games Be Lost?

If March arrives and there is no deal, the most likely scenario is games being lost, because players wouldn’t have started spring training by then and they need at least a few weeks to prepare themselves.

Of course, much like prospect development, “bargaining is not linear,” per Passan.

What does this mean?

A big development that gets the sides significantly closer could still happen all of a sudden.

However, that possibility is looking unlikely.

The union still hasn’t made a counterproposal to what the owners offered on Thursday, but they left the meeting with a sense of disappointment.

Among the items discussed on Thursday, the league is willing to find a way to pay major leaguers with two or more years of service, and they are also open to giving draft picks as a reward to teams that don’t manipulate service time.

Changes to the proposed draft lottery were also discussed.

In the end, the only positive of the first meeting was that both sides are talking again after weeks of inactivity.

That’s something, but certainly not enough.

Unless MLB is willing to give in to most of the players’ requests, the possibility of a quick deal that guarantees games aren’t lost is vanishing in a hurry.

Stay tuned, because things could start to pick up soon… or get even uglier.

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