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On Dec. 1, baseball's collective bargaining agreement will expire, and it feels like MLB and the MLBPA are closer to a work stoppage than at any point since the 1994-95 strike. The two sides do not trust each other and negotiations regarding pandemic-related issues have been acrimonious the last 13 months.

Despite that, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is "optimistic" baseball will be able to avoid a work stoppage after the season. He said so during an MLB Valuations 2021 webinar hosted by Sportico on Tuesday.

"I believe -- I really am optimistic -- that the process will work here," Manfred said when asked about the possibility of a work stoppage. 

MLB and the MLBPA recently held their first collective bargaining session, reports ESPN's Jeff Passan. Cubs player representative Ian Happ told reporters, including 670 The Score's Bruce Levine, the two sides are early in the process of explaining where they stand, and no proposals have been made yet.

Negotiations typically begin the offseason prior to the CBA's expiration, though MLB and the MLBPA spent much of this past winter figuring out how they will conduct a season during the pandemic. They got a late start on negotiations, though that's not necessarily bad news. It just means they have some catching up to do.

Although a work stoppage feels unavoidable, the smart money is on neither MLB nor the MLBPA wanting to shut the sport down again following last year's pandemic shutdown. Everyone's wallet took a hit during the pandemic and I don't think either side wants to go through that again. It is in everyone's best interest to reach a new deal before Dec. 1.

Among other things, the next CBA is likely to include the universal DH, an expanded postseason field, an international draft, and mechanisms to curb or eliminate service time manipulation and tanking.