Major League Baseball has some thrilling deadlines. Most notably, the midsummer trade deadline gets the baseball community more pumped than Christmas morning. Some hardcore fans can even get jittery at the prospect of watching qualifying offers and contract tenders unfold.
Unfortunately, the deadline that rests just a few hours in the future is of the less fun variety. The chance of a true baseball season hangs in the balance.
As the ongoing lockout approaches its three-month anniversary, MLB has warned the Players Association that it will cancel regular-season games if a deal is not reached by the end of the day on Feb. 28.
Recent developments have demonstrated progress, but at this rate, it’s hard to envision a deal will be reached before the two sides go their separate ways later today.
So where do things stand as of this morning?
The MLB and its player reps have met every day for the last week-plus, and although a gap remains between the two sides, some compromises have been made. The league has agreed to implement a universal designated hitter and proposed an end to qualifying offers while the union reduced its percentage of arbitration-eligible players with two to three years of service time from 75 to 35. Of course, the owners have been far less willing to budge, so they declined the players’ arbitration proposal even though it appeared to be a legitimate sacrifice by the union.
The league-wide luxury tax has been another topic of negotiation, and it might be the biggest obstacle that remains. The two sides remain far apart, with MLB refusing to budge much from its proposed $215 million threshold. The league has incrementally increased its proposal by only $1 million, and a small change like this won’t result in a deal anytime soon. Meanwhile, MLB only slightly reduced its luxury tax penalties.
MLBPA dropped its request for arbitration eligibility expansion from 75 percent of players with 2-3 years of service time to 35 percent. MLB doesn’t want to expand it at all from current 22. No change to minimum salary or prearbitration bonus pool proposals for either side.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 26, 2022
The league also ignored the players’ push for a draft lottery since the latter group has not agreed to a 14-team playoff system yet.
Perhaps the most frustrating developments came on Saturday when the players believed they made significant strides toward a deal only to be shut down by the owners, who aren't too worried about canceling several games. In addition to budging drastically on their arbitration requests, the players lowered their proposed luxury tax thresholds and also dropped their request to reduce the amount of revenue shared between big- and small-market teams.
In what seems to be a PR-motivated statement, MLB called the ongoing talks “productive” after meeting with the union for six hours on Sunday. Meanwhile, though, the players remain frustrated and view themselves as “very far apart” from the league heading into a pivotal day of negotiations. This type of contradictory language has grown common as MLB looks to save face in the negotiating process while the players remain appalled by the league’s disinterest in striking a deal.
MLB calls talks 'productive' while MLBPA says sides are still 'very far apart' entering deadline day https://t.co/5TW7UX4wI0— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 28, 2022
The two sides will meet again on Monday morning at 10 a.m. Hopefully, both sides can demonstrate a true willingness to make progress towards a deal, even if they don’t agree to exact terms before the league's self-imposed deadline.
Should I Be Optimistic?
Yes and no. It does feel like baseball will be played in 2022, but it’s hard to imagine a compromise will be struck before the deadline. Sure, deadlines are strong negotiating tactics that sometimes spark last-minute agreements. However, the sides are just too far apart from each other. A deal in the waning hours of the month seems quite unlikely.
This was a very brief rundown of the current state of negotiations. Things can get confusing in a hurry, so here are some helpful links to further educate yourself.
- The Athletic | McCullough: MLB owners clearly don’t want fans to watch their sport right now
- CBS Sports | MLB lockout: Owners, players have ‘productive’ talks day before league’s Opening Day deadline
- The Athletic | Drellich: Opening Day never had a chance
- MLB Daily Dish | The 2021-22 MLB Lockout: A Painful History
- SB Nation | The MLB lockout explained, in five minutes
- NBC Sports | Baseball moves to the brink of a disastrous outcome
- The Athletic | Rosenthal: Rob Manfred on course to fulfill his own doomsday prophesy for baseball
- NJ.com | MLB lockout brings back memories of 1995, when Yankees asked Jersey guys (including me) to play for them
- SB Nation | Live updates on the MLB lockout negotiations
- The Athletic | MLB lockout news: With Opening Day in jeopardy, what issues are they fighting over?