The Atlanta Braves are reigning World Series champions and now baseball is in the middle of its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike. MLB and the MLBPA were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the Dec. 1 deadline, so the owners locked out the players, and regular season games are being canceled. Here's everything you need to know about the owners' lockout.
Throughout the offseason the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we tried to predict when Opening Day will happen. This week we're going to figure out how the lockout will end.
So how will the lockout end?
Mike Axisa: Lost in the cancellation of more games is the fact MLB and the MLBPA made significant progress on core economic matters this week. Their minimum salary and Competitive Balance Tax proposals are very close, and the gap in their pre-arbitration bonus pool proposals is much closer than what it was even a week ago. Here is each side's latest proposal:
$710,000 in 2022 climbing to $770,000 in 2026
$725,000 in 2022 climbing to $780,000 in 2026
Competitive balance tax threshold
$230 million in 2022 climbing to $242 million in 2026
$232 million in 2022 climbing to $250 million in 2026
Pre-arbitration bonus pool
$40 million with no increases
$65 million with $5 million increases each year
They're so close! There are other details to be worked out (MLB wants to add another penalty tier to the CBT, for example), but they are close enough now that the next proposal could bring an agreement. These are the three most important economic matters and the two sides have rounded third and are nearing home. An agreement isn't too far off.
I'm disappointed MLB keeps dropping these last-minute details on the MLBPA when it appears the two sides are making progress -- last week it was the 45-day waiting period for rule changes and this week it was the international draft -- and it seems calculated. Like they know an agreement isn't going to happen and they're going to cancel games, so they drum up a detail most fans don't care about to make the union look like the bad guy when they reject it.
That has to end. Games are being canceled and it's time to put all your cards on the table, and not suddenly turn lesser items into deal breakers. I feel like MLB came into the lockout willing to sacrifice April and I think they'll do it because they don't lose television money until 25 or so games are missed. They won't pass up a chance to get full television money without having to put a product on the field. The owners can't help themselves.
So, to answer the question, I'm going to say this ends when MLB begins to approach that magic number of games lost where they're required to give the television networks rebates for missed games. At that point they'll meet in the middle on any outstanding economic matters and stop pushing so hard on other items. Basically, I think MLB is milking the television networks for all they're worth, and will end the lockout when the gravy train runs out.
R.J. Anderson: I'll repeat what I said last week. The owners can cancel a few more series before they have to start paying back their television deals. This is a group that does not like to spend unnecessary money. I think that, around the 25-game mark, is as far as this goes.
Matt Snyder: The owners aren't going to agree to an MLBPA offer, collectively. They just won't. They'll act like they are the ones making every single concession along the way then counter every single union offer with something else, moving the goal posts every time. From this perspective, the players will cave in some way. After all these weeks of conditioning, it probably won't look like that, however, it'll just look like a compromise -- one that could have easily happened months ago. And the latter is true. This could have easily been done already.
Dayn Perry: I think we wind up with something of a middle ground of the current proposals on the core economic matters, and I think the owners eventually agree to no qualifying offer for the 2022 season with a November deadline to determine the future of the international draft. While pre-arb players are going to wind up better off I think this winds up as a win for owners. I believe we'll come out of this with no expansion of super two, a CBT threshold that still doesn't come close to reflecting the league's revenue growth, an expanded postseason, and no further accountability for teams that receive revenue sharing monies. The owners dragged this out way longer than necessary.