Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report to their teams’ camps in Florida and Arizona on Tuesday, thereby marking the official start of spring training. Instead, Major League Baseball’s owner-imposed lockout is now more than two months old, and is beginning to imperil the beginning of the regular season. (Opening Day remains scheduled for March 29, but that could change if the two sides are unable to ratify a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by early March.)
To honor the occasion, we here at CBS Sports wanted to provide a crash course on the lockout. Below, you’ll find a timeline of events, as well as details on what both sides are asking for and what they’ve agreed upon, and a note on what comes next.
Timeline of the lockout
Dec. 2: The lockout began shortly after midnight on December 2, or with the official expiration of the previous CBA. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced in a statement that the 30 owners had voted unanimously in support of the lockout: “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.”
Jan. 13: Despite Manfred claiming they intended the lockout to “jumpstart” negotiations, the league waited more than six weeks to make its first proposal, with that coming on Thursday, January 13. The proposal, which was not received well by the union, included an increase in the minimum salary; tweaks to draft-pick compensation; and adjustments to a draft lottery system that would be implemented to curb tanking.
Jan. 24, 25: The two sides met, on consecutive days this time, with the union rejecting most of, if not all of the league’s proposal during those sessions. Both sides did concede on various issues during these meetings. The players walked away from asking for age-based free agency and earlier arbitration, and the league scrapped its original request to do away with the “Super Two” tier of the arbitration system.
Feb. 1: The parties met for about 90 minutes to again discuss core economic issues. This meeting was highlighted by the MLBPA lowering its requests as it pertained to curbing service-time manipulation and the size of the bonus pool earmarked to award high-performing players who were in the pre-arbitration phase of their career. The players offered an expanded, 12-team postseason and the universal designated hitter.
Feb. 3: MLB requested the help of a federal mediator to resolve the lockout. The union declined to partake a day later, on Feb. 4, citing how MLB had failed to deliver the counterproposal it had previously promised. “The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table,” an MLBPA statement read.
Feb. 10: Manfred addresses the media for the first time during the lockout. He does not announce an official delay to spring training, as expected, and again expresses his optimism that a deal will be done before the season is compromised.
Feb. 17: The union offers its latest proposal for a CBA framework. In it, the players soften their request for salary arbitration after two years by instead proposing to significantly expand the super-two pool. As well, the players ask to expand the discussed bonus pool for pre-arbitration players.
What the sides want, have moved on from
The MLBPA’s focus has been on funneling more money to younger players (by increasing the minimum salary and installing the pre-arbitration bonus pool), and on curbing anti-competitive strategies. The union has dropped requests for age-based free agency as well as earlier eligibility for arbitration. They’ve also scaled back their proposals as it relates to revenue sharing, a hot-button topic in these talks.
The league and owners, meanwhile, want to expand the postseason to 14 teams. While they’ve dropped requests to do away with the “Super Two” phase of the arbitration process, the league’s most recent proposal sought to gain the ability to further trim the minor leagues if they so desired after the 2022 season.
Otherwise, the two sides remain at odds over the competitive balance tax thresholds and penalties (the owners’ latest proposal on this front represents a radical shift from the norm); the exact increase in minimum salary; and the size of the pre-arbitration bonus pool.
What they’ve agreed to
The negotiations haven’t been a complete waste of time. The sides have agreed to the universal DH; to the implementation of a draft lottery (though specific details are still unknown); and to the elimination of the buyer side of draft-pick compensation, meaning teams will be able to sign players without losing picks.
What comes next
The two sides will continue to trade proposals until an agreement can be reached. They haven’t yet operated with a sense of urgency, meaning it’s anyone’s guess as to how frequently they’ll be meeting, or when they’re most likely to strike a deal.
The start of spring training has already been compromised, and, as noted in the introduction, it’s possible the same will become true of the regular season. The expectation is that the players will require about four weeks to ramp-up, suggesting that a deal must be in place by the early part of March, if not the late part of February in order for the league to proceed with Opening Day on the 29th.
If the regular season is impacted by the lockout, it will be the first time MLB has missed games because of a work stoppage since 1995.