Just after midnight on December 2nd, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a letter to fans, announcing the league's owners had locked out the players.
Baseball's best business reporters have discussed the motivations for the lockout all winter, and some of my colleagues have done a great job breaking down where we go from here and the issues at stake in the collective bargaining negotiations.
The lockout has importance and impact that will transcend any one team or topic, but for a Toronto crowd here are a few ways baseball's ninth work stoppage could impact the Blue Jays:
The most immediate impact of the work stoppage is the major league transaction freeze. After a fleury of signings, we've hit a wall. The 2021 MLB Rule 5 draft has been "postponed indefinitely," and teams are not allowed to sign, release, or trade players until a new CBA is reached.
Offseason Training, Rehab, and Workouts
Another immediate consequence of the lockout is the stoppage of MLB players training at team facilities and working out with team personnel.
With this week’s lockout coming as no surprise, most teams worked with players to develop routines and offseason plans prior to Thursday’s shutdown. This stoppage is especially disruptive for players rehabbing from injuries as staff and players are unable to communicate updates or ask questions during the lockout.
“It’s a legal issue,” Manfred said when asked about contact between team doctors, trainers, and players at a Thursday press conference.
Minor league players not on 40-man rosters, however, are still permitted to use club facilities and rehab with team personnel.
2022 Season and Schedule
While players and owners negotiate over the future of the sport, I'm sure most fans are primarily concerned with potential games missed in 2022.
This CBA was set to expire on Dec. 1 to minimize the chance a work stoppage would impact real baseball games, but if the lockout lingers, spring training and regular-season contests could be jeopardized. Assuming at least three weeks of spring training are needed, a CBA must be agreed upon by the first week of March to avoid any possibility of regular season delays or cancellations.
If the lockout continues into the 2022 season, MLB players would not be paid during the work stoppage. Currently, most front office staff and club employees remain employed by their respective clubs, but a lengthy lockout could result in furloughs or layoffs for them, as well.
Changes To Player Compensation
Getting players paid earlier in their careers is one of the highest priority issues the union is bringing to the table in these CBA negotiations.
The current arbitration and pre-arb systems, objectively, suppress the earning potential of some of the game’s youngest stars and prevent some players from ever significantly cashing in on their baseball careers.
There will, at the very least, be tweaks to MLB’s compensation structure, and there's a chance the entire system could be upended with radical change that impacts every team in the league.
Service time manipulation loopholes could be closed, arbitration could start earlier, or free agency could come sooner for veteran players, all of which would change the future salaries and team control of some of Toronto’s young core.
Missing the playoffs by just a single game last season, an expanded postseason format could be particularly appealing and impactful for the 2022 Blue Jays.
The league has proposed a 14-team playoff where division winners choose their opponents in a three-game wild-card matchup, per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. The union offered a 12-team expanded playoff that included realignment to two divisions per league (one eight-team and one seven-team division), according to Jeff Passan.
With both sides of the negotiations batting around playoff expansion concepts, it seems almost inevitable that the 10-team MLB postseason will soon be a thing of the past.
Other Potential Rule Changes
While Manfred implied that rule changes have been "put to one side in an effort to get to an agreement," during his press conference earlier this week, there are a number of rule and logistical adjustments that could creep into the game as soon as next year.
An international draft, ditching the bonus pool system in which the Jays signed Gabriel Moreno and Vlad Guerrero Jr., has been discussed. On-field changes like a pitch clock, the universal DH, banning or suppressing infield shifts, and robot umpires are other rule changes that could also come in baseball's future.
H/T Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers, Shi Davidi, Chris Halicke, Evan Drellich, Ken Rosenthal