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MLB players and team owners are deep in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and for some time the expectation has been that owners will lock out the players if a new CBA isn't negotiated by the time the current one expires on Dec. 1. 

On Thursday, commissioner Rob Manfred seemed to clear the decks for just such a drastic step in his remarks at the conclusion of the quarterly owners' meetings in Chicago. Here's what Manfred said about the possibility of an owner lockout in early December, which would freeze all transactions, including trades and free agent signings: 

A lockout is indeed a labor stoppage from the owner side (a strike is a labor stoppage on the player side). Since a potential strike would have the most leverage during or much closer to the start of the regular season, an early owner lockout is in essence a preemptive measure to add a layer of pressure to the union. A lockout need not last long -- a number of labor stoppages throughout MLB-MLBPA history have lasted mere days -- but if it drags out long enough, it could alter the offseason calendar. 

Manfred also said the focus remains on agreeing to a new CBA, which is the negotiated accord governing all aspects of the player-team working relationship, before the Dec. 1 deadline, and that remains possible. However, the number of vital issues in play and the seeming distance between the two sides makes that a particularly heavy lift. 

From the players' standpoint, they'd presumably like to address their shrinking share of those league revenues (indicated in part by the declining average player salary), the occasional practice of service-time manipulation (i.e., when teams hold back a clearly ready prospect in order to delay his free agency and arbitration eligibility for a full year), and the "tanking" problem, among other matters. The owners, meantime, will likely be looking to costume the status quo in whatever form the next CBA takes. 

Nothing's particularly surprising about Manfred's floating some preliminary justification for a lockout, but that he did so strongly aligns with what's long been suspected.