Posted on November 23, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

Image via forbes.com

Major League Baseball hasn’t seen a work stoppage since the strike that cancelled the World Series in 1994. However, a run of more than two decades without any labor issues could be in jeopardy. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that MLB owners will at least consider voting to lockout the players if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached by the time the current one expires on December 1.

There is still plenty of time for the two sides to agree to the terms of a new CBA, and there is no guarantee that the owners would vote in favor of a lockout even if there were to be a vote. It’s also unlikely that any games would be affected, as the sides would have until the middle of February to make a deal before the start of spring training. However, a lockout would not be ideal and could mean a freezing out of the hot stove season.

If a deal is not reached by December 1 and a lockout ensues, baseball’s winter meetings would still take place as scheduled from December 4 to 8. However, teams could not complete trades with one another, and free agent signings would come to a screeching halt, and so the winter meetings would not have their usual buzz of news, rumors, and information that captivates fans and gives baseball a large amount of the sports world’s attention in the middle of the offseason.

The owners are reportedly frustrated with the Players Union because of their “slow pace of discussions.” In theory, a lockout could push them in the right direction to get a deal done. There are appear to be several issues that are keeping the sides apart, including the idea of an international draft, which MLB has spoken openly about wanting in recent months.

The Players Union has been consistently opposed to the idea of an international draft. The owners reportedly offered to get rid of draft-pick compensation for free agents, another hot topic for the Union, in exchange for implementing an international draft. However, the players did not agree to such a deal that would have resolved two of the biggest issues keeping the sides apart, as they are vehemently against an international draft.

One person on the Union’s side of the negotiations explained the hard stance. “We aren’t giving them something that affects 30% of big leaguers and probably 50% of minor leaguers in exchange for something that affects less than 20 players every year, especially guys who are staring $17 million in the face.” Foreign born players made up 27.5% of opening day rosters in 2016, whereas just 10 players received a qualifying offer this winter.

The Joint Drug Agreement is also an issue on the table. Several players spoke openly during the season about harsher punishments, but the Players Union is still looking for concessions in other parts of the deal in exchange for a stricter drug policy. The competitive balance tax is another issue where there is distance between the owners and the players.

Tony Clark, who is the head of the Players Union and leading negotiations for the first time, declined to comment on the reported stalemate. Commissioner Rob Manfred simply said “We don’t negotiate in the press,” adding, “We remain committed to the idea that we’re going to make an agreement before expiration.” This is the first set of CBA negotiations with Manfred as commissioner, although he has been involved in the negotiations during the last three labor agreements.

The Players Union also believes that a deal can get done without a lockout. One person on the players’ side described the current issues as “nothing that reasonable and creative people can’t resolve.” However, one player described the negotiations as a “struggle” and pledged that his side “will fight.” Neither side is divulging too much, but it sounds like discussions have stalled a bit, making a lockout something that will at least be considered if negotiations don’t start moving in the right direction.

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