MLB owners voted unanimously to lock the players out at the expiration of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 2. Roughly six weeks passed before they presented their offer for a new CBA to the MLB Players Association and the two sides haven't made much progress in a few back-and-forths since. The owners will reportedly meet this week in Orlando to decide their next steps in negotiations, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Late last week, the owners submitted a request for assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent federal government organization. Such a request required the players to sign on before being considered, and the players declined (full story here). In a separate bit of possible federal government intervention, U.S. labor secretary Marty Walsh has has told the league he's willing to get involved in negotiations, according to Politico's Jon Lemire. It's unclear if the league and the union will take him up on his offer.
"I have spoken to both the MLBPA and MLB about the ongoing contract negotiations and encourage both sides to continue engagement," a spokesperson for Walsh told The Athletic. "Like any contract negotiation in any industry, I stand ready to help facilitate productive conversations that result in the best outcome for workers and employers."
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The players' main point in turning down the FMCS was the group is there to help two sides negotiate, but that there isn't really an impasse yet because the owners haven't negotiated at all. The players came off their request for earlier free agency, but would still like to see more compensation for younger players, notably in pre-arbitration years -- well before they have a chance to hit free agency. Another big player request has been to incentivize teams to stop "tanking" and manipulating service time. Succinctly, they want every team to try to win every season and to promote players to the majors when they are ready to play in the majors instead of holding them back in the name of delaying free agency. The owners seem to not want to change anything.
Maybe the threat of losing spring training revenue will move the needle a bit this coming week for the owners? Pitchers and catchers were originally supposed to report to spring training next week, but that now seems highly unlikely to happen.
MLB owners meet Tuesday-Thursday in Orlando, where they will regroup. The union expectation is a new MLB offer will come soon, and presumably that happens after the owners convene. It’s obviously getting late with spring training originally scheduled to start 10 days from today.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 6, 2022
At this point, those of us wanting an agreement to happen will be hoping for the owners to offer some sort of concession, from the previous deal, by later this week and then hopefully it gets the proverbial ball rolling in negotiations.
In the very near term, the players should have a little bit of leverage. Spring training games have become relatively lucrative for the owners while the players' salaries are only for the regular season. Simply, losing spring training games hits the owners in the pocketbook but not the players.
Former Marlins president David Samson discussed the latest lockout news on Monday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
Of course, as we creep closer to the regular season, that paradigm shifts. The owners collectively have exponentially deeper pockets and they both stand to lose money with regular season games lost.
Opening day for the 2022 regular season, for the time being, remains set for March 31.