MLB lockout remains likely as MLBPA, league reportedly hold last-minute talks in Texas

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At 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, baseball’s collective bargaining agreement — the contract that allows MLB and the MLB Players Association to conduct business — will expire, at which point the owners are expected to lock out the players. It will be baseball’s first work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike. Here is everything you need to know about the looming owners’ lockout.

MLB and the MLBPA are holding last-minute bargaining sessions this week near Dallas, and on Monday the league again proposed an expanded 14-team postseason format. On Tuesday, the MLBPA walked MLB through their latest proposal, and the two sides will meet again Wednesday, perhaps right up until the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Here are a few items in the MLBPA’s latest proposal, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers:

  • Free agency at age 29 1/2 or after five years of service time, whichever comes first.
  • Players become arbitration-eligible after two seasons rather than three.
  • Expanded 12-team postseason with leagues realigned to two divisions each.
  • Luxury-tax threshold raised from $210 million to $240 million.
  • Advertising patches on uniforms.

Ultimately, money will determine when a new CBA is reached. Baseball is a $10 billion a year business and how that $10 billion is distributed will be at the core of the lockout. There are other matters to resolve (rule changes, etc.) and those are important too, but money is the single biggest issue. The lockout will not end until the money issue is resolved.

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Reports indicate MLB and the MLBPA are still very far apart on economic matters, so far apart that reaching a new CBA prior to the expiration of the current CBA on Wednesday is seen as a long shot at best. The union wants to put more money into the pockets of younger players and combat anti-competitive behavior (i.e. tanking), among other things.

Once the lockout begins, MLB is expected to implement a transactions freeze, halting all transactions involving 40-man roster players (i.e. union members). That has contributed to the recent rush of free-agent signings. Players want to lock in their payday before the lockout brings weeks (months?) of uncertainty.

The lockout will be MLB’s first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike and the fourth lockout in baseball history. The three previous lockouts occurred in 1973 (lasted 12 days), 1976 (13 days), and 1990 (32 days) and did not result in any regular season games being postponed or canceled.

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