MLB lockout update: Spring Training postponement likely
It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the MLB lockout, mainly because there hasn’t been much to report for most of this winter. But bargaining sessions have picked up following the owners’ 43-day freeze-out dating from Dec. 2, the day the lockout was implemented in order to – as commissioner Rob Manfred described it – “jumpstart” negotiations. Manfred must have mislaid his jumper cables.
Let’s dive into the issues that are preventing a deal from getting done, and see if there’s hope of the season starting on time or not.
The sides are far apart
Two of the biggest issues that the players’ union is fighting for are a minimum salary increase, and a significant change to the way arbitration is handled.
The players want the minimum salary increased from $570,500 to $775,000. The owners have countered with a tiered system that will give players a $615,000 minimum in their first year, $650,000 in their second, and $700,000 in their third.
Today’s 90-minute meeting between MLB, MLBPA was heated. Some owners and players participated. The MLBPA made moves in two areas: service-time manipulation, and pre-arb bonus pool (dropped request from $105 million to $100 million). TBD when next core economics meeting will be.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 1, 2022
The gap is even more sizable in arbitration negotiations. The union wants players to be eligible for arbitration after two years of service, while the owners want it to remain at three. The players then suggested a pre-arbitration bonus pool of $105 million for players not yet eligible for arbitration to be rewarded for reaching certain benchmarks. The owners countered with a paltry $10 million.
Little progress is being made
If those two issues were the only ones on the table, things would not look so grim. But the players and owners remain far apart on the competitive balance tax (otherwise known as the luxury tax), and have yet to hammer out a potential draft lottery, agree or disagree to playoff expansion, or resolve any other rule changes that baseball fans have seen over the last two years, like the universal DH or the extra-innings “runner on second” rule.
The meeting between the Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB is over. Little progress was made. The on-time opening of spring training at this point is in grave danger and, frankly, would take a miraculous deal coming together to rescue. A delay feels inevitable.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 1, 2022
With little progress being made despite a recent flurry of meetings, fans would be justified if they began to worry about a delay to the 2022 season. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers believes that Feb. 8 is the 'do or die' date when it comes to pitchers and catchers reporting on time. If Spring Training camps do not open by Feb. 19 – one week before exhibition games are set to begin – there could be a domino effect that may result in the regular season being altered.
In a crushing blow to the spirit of baseball fans, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem said that the league is willing to lose games over some of the outstanding issues the sides have, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
Only time will tell if 2022 will see the first MLB games lost since 1995 due to a work stoppage.