The Major League Baseball winter meetings typically spawn excitement for baseball fans. The annual event often features a lot of wheeling and dealing between teams, and it’s really the first significant step toward a brand new season.
But the hype surrounding this year’s event, which begins Monday, is suppressed to an extent by the uncertainty surrounding MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, which expires this Thursday, as many organizations are hesitant to make an offseason splash until the labor dispute is settled between the league and the players’ union.
Neither side wants a work stoppage, obviously, and recent reports suggest there’s been good dialogue since ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Monday that club officials understood teams won’t participate in the winter meetings unless sufficient progress is made this week. MLB officials, executives, players, coaches and, yes, even fans shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch, though. The possibility of a lockout still looms, however far-fetched it might seem on the heels of a successful season that featured tons of revenue and an incredible World Series with excellent television ratings.
There are several key issues at the forefront of the negotiations, including the competitive balance tax (aka the luxury tax), draft pick compensation for signing another team’s free agent, the potential for an international draft and possible tweaks to the joint drug agreement and domestic violence policy.
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann has an excellent breakdown of the key issues involved in the link below.
So, let’s simply address the big question: What if the Dec. 1 deadline comes and goes without a deal?
Well, the sides could extend the current CBA to a date that’s mutually agreeable, in turn preserving the existing rules for offseason activities. That would mean business as usual with regards to free-agent signings and trades, although it’s possible — if not likely — teams would continue to proceed with hesitance in their offseason moves because of the uncertainty surrounding possible CBA changes in the future. In other words, goodbye, winter meetings. They would be a total dud, in all likelihood.
If the sides can’t agree on an extension of the current CBA, MLB could go into a lockout, which essentially would stop the league. MLB and the 30 ownership groups collectively would be deciding to deny employment to MLB players. The result would be an offseason deprived of free-agent signings and/or trades until a new deal is reached, and players would be positioned to take legal action, leading to a potentially lengthy process that could threaten the start of spring training and the 2017 regular season.
Let’s be real, no one wants a lockout. And fortunately, there doesn’t need to be an immediate lockout if Thursday’s deadline passes without a new CBA. But with the winter meetings looming, and teams seemingly unwilling to make major moves until a new CBA is in place, baseball fans should be pulling for the sides to figure everything out before Monday.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images