MLB lockout looming Thursday as CBA expires

MLB Rob Manfred lockout
Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

All the fun that we’ve had keeping tabs on a frenzied signing period around Major League Baseball was bittersweet. 

At 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday night, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which provides the framework of the relationship and the parameters of a season between the league and the MLB Players’ Association, expires. 

Expectations following fruitless negotiations between the league and MLBPA is that the owners will lock out the players — freezing all activity in baseball including trades and signings. 

It’s an especially inopportune time for a lockout to happen considering December usually brings MLB’s Winter Meetings where the groundwork for a majority of offseason transactions go down.

Granted, the looming deadline this offseason provided one of the more memorable offseasons already. 

Over the last week, we’ve seen the Mets spend $254.5 million, most notably on future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. 

The Texas Rangers went on a $500-million-plus spending spree to shore up the middle of their middle infield with All-Stars, signing All-Stars in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. They also nabbed one of the top free-agent pitchers on the market in Jon Gray. 

Kevin Gausman went to the Toronto Blue Jays, who lost AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray to the Seattle Mariners. 

Javier Baez — another premier shortstop — is heading to the Detroit Tigers on a six-year deal. It’s his third team in the last five months after he was traded to the Mets by the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.

But the downside is that we might not see anything else for a while. 

Considering how volatile negotiations were just to get the 2020 season started after delays ushered in by COVID-19, the league and players aren’t on the best terms, to put it lightly.

To drive another sizable rift between them and the fans, most of it derives around economics. 

The players are trying to get paid earlier in their careers rather than having to wait the necessary six years of MLB service time before becoming a free agent and getting long-term, big-money contracts. Then there is the workaround used by teams to take advantage of their younger prospects — keeping them in the minors longer to dictate their service time.

Players vehemently oppose the idea of tanking, which sees billion-dollar franchises acting like small-budget teams that ultimately limit payrolls.

Aside from the economics of the game, MLB could see an expanded playoff — up to 14 teams — instituted alongside the universal DH, which made a rousing debut during the 60-game 2020 season.

Just how long will this lockout last, though? It would be surprising to see the 162-game regular season impacted, but we could see a delay in spring training, which has pitchers and catchers reporting to facilities toward the end of February.