The long-anticipated Major League Baseball lockout is starting, and there’s speculation about its length and what happens after it ends.
There’s no real incentive for this lockout to end quickly. Games aren’t being played, players aren’t being paid, so the players and owners aren’t losing money.
The Winter Meetings, scheduled for next week in Orlando, Florida, won’t be held, and the Rule 5 draft, which traditionally ends the meetings, will be postponed until the lockout is over.
During the lockout, major league players are barred from working out at team facilities, and there isn’t supposed to be any contact between the clubs and players.
General managers, managers and coaches aren’t supposed to discuss players on the 40-man roster. MLB.com and MLB Network aren’t allowed to use images and likenesses of the players during the lockout.
Owners can sell tickets, but they can’t use players on the 40-man roster to promote their games. The Orioles could theoretically use Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez to sell tickets because they’re not on the 40-man roster, but they can’t use their second-best pitching prospect, DL Hall, who was put on the roster late last month.
There’s a freeze on major league transactions, putting a stop to signings and trades. Teams can discuss and even agree upon trades to be announced post-lockout, but they can’t be completed. Signing players to minor league contracts is allowed.
Fans who have followed the recent contracts being awarded to free agents might wonder why players are unhappy. The Players Association loves those big contracts for superstars, but they’ve been concerned that good veteran players who aren’t superstars haven’t been getting fair offers.
The game has been getting younger, and younger players are cheaper. The Players Association wants younger players to be paid earlier in their careers.
Earlier in the negotiations, the owners proposed that players be allowed to declare for free agency at age 29 ½, a proposal that might help players who went to college or had longer than expected minor league apprenticeships reach free agency earlier.
Currently, six years of service time is required, but for younger players who were drafted out of high school or signed internationally, a 29 ½-year threshold for free agency could tie them to their teams for eight years or more instead of six.
The players would like the six-year minimum lowered, and the three-year path to arbitration.
They also want an end to service-time manipulation, where clubs keep players in the minors longer than necessary to avoid arbitration.
The so-called “tanking” issue has been negotiated, and there seems to be some progress. Take the Orioles, who are set to pick in the top five in the next draft for the fourth straight year. A draft lottery has been proposed by the owners, and that could be turned into a television event, just like in the NBA.
The players hope that minimum payrolls with a large increase in the competitive-balance-tax would encourage teams to spend more.
Some things will proceed. The January 15th international signing period should not be affected. Teams can announce starting times for Grapefruit League, Cactus League and regular-season games. Two teams, the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics, can hire new managers and coaching staffs.
The next Collective Bargaining Agreement will bring changes on the field, too.
The designated hitter will likely come to the National League, and there might be a pitch clock and rules designed to thwart the prominence of the infield shift.
Expanded playoffs will arrive. The owners have proposed 14-team postseasons, up from the current 10, with a round of two-of-three wild-card games added.
How long might a lockout last? The best guess is about two months because that wouldn’t interfere with spring training. Oriole pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida on February 15th.
If there’s a settlement by February 1st, then the Rule 5 draft, free-agent signings and trades can be completed by the start of spring training.
For the moment, players and owners might be talked out and probably will take a break from negotiations because little can be accomplished. With the holidays approaching, it would be surprising if there was a resolution this month.
While there were a number of significant signings, many big-name players haven’t signed and most second- and third-tier players, who the union says have been disadvantaged, have yet to find baseball homes for 2022.
Fans might not care if there’s a stoppage that doesn’t interfere with the schedule for next season. For now, they’re busy watching football and preparing for the holidays.
As an optimist, I had hoped we wouldn’t get here as most everyone else predicted we would. The differences are great, but the animosity doesn’t seem close to what it was during the last work stoppage in 1994 and 1995.
Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into an authentic work stoppage and that two months from now we’re focusing on the 2022 Orioles season, not worrying about when it might begin.
Report: Orioles reach agreement with Lyles: According to a report in The Athletic, the Orioles reached an agreement with right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles on a one-year, $7 million contract, pending a physical, which will take place after the lockout.
The 31-year-old Lyles is 54-79 with a 5.21 ERA in 11 major league seasons with Houston, Colorado, San Diego, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Texas.
In 2021, Lyles was 10-13 with a 5.15 ERA in 32 games for the Rangers. He threw a career-high 180 innings. He’s 0-3 with a 4.26 ERA in three career starts in Baltimore.
The reported $7 million contract is the largest one the Orioles have given to a free agent during executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ three-year tenure.
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