The collective-bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association is set to expire Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.
If an agreement isn’t reached by that point, team owners will move to lock out their players and pause all major league transactions.
As Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein reported in our Daily Cover story, the stakes are high as commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark square off once again:
Privately, executives and players alike call their sport “unwatchable.” The relationship between the league and the union has grown so toxic that the sides cannot even agree on easy, common-sense plans; two summers ago, with nothing else to do, they stalled in talks to restart the 2020 season and Manfred finally implemented it unilaterally.
Is there a working deal on the table?
There are three main issues of contention: When and how players should get paid; spending limits in relation to the salary cap; and rule changes. Apstein broke down a few potential compromises for each side.
How players should get paid: Let players reach salary arbitration at two years but keep the current, six-year free-agency system intact. An earlier chance at arbitration would meaningfully affect many players’ lives, especially ones like Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski, a late-blooming 4-WAR player who will not be eligible for free agency until his age-35 season.
Spending limits in relation to the cap: Draft-pick compensation is a reasonable way to throw a bone to a spurned team, but there’s no reason a new club should pay in money and in prospects for signing a free agent. Add a pick for the old team, and leave the new team alone.
Rule changes: Expanded playoffs are coming. Apstein also calls for a few more dramatic updates: Pull the DH when the starting pitcher leaves the game, for example, and eliminate the runner-pops-off-the-bag-for-a-millisecond out that replay has brought us.
What the players say
"A lockout seems like that's a very likely scenario," Max Scherzer, a member of MLBPA leadership, told SI’s Apstein. The pitcher added that the looming threat of a lockout is what contributed to his decision to sign an early free-agency deal, a three-year, $130 million contract with the New York Mets.