For the first time since 1994-95 strike and for just the ninth time in the history of the sport, Major League Baseball is reportedly instituting a work stoppage.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, MLB owners have unanimously voted to lockout the players as the MLB Players Association and the owners have been unable to reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Heyman says the lockout is expected to begin tomorrow, but the official time for the announcement remains unclear.
For clarity, a strike happens when the players refuse to come to work, while a lockout is management-induced and prevents the players from reporting to the ballpark or team facilities. Of the eight previous work stoppages, this represents the fourth lockout in baseball history. The three prior stoppages happened in 1973 (12 days), 1976 (13 days) and 1990 (32 days) - none of which resulted in the cancellation of any games.
No trades of major league players or signing of major league contracts are permitted during a lockout, which is partially why there has been a major push on free agent signings in recent days. If the lockout is still in place, International Signing Day on January 15th will also be postponed.
The biggest hurdle that the two sides need to negotiate is how to share the revenue generated by the league. There are also discussions around playoff expansion, service-time manipulation, tanking issues and giving players a chance to earn more money earlier in their careers.
The league and the players union have not been close to striking a new CBA for quite some time and a work stoppage seemed inevitable. Frankly, if the owners didn't institute a lockout, they likely would lose leverage in negotiating a new deal. The expiration of the expiring CBA did not mandate league or team operations to shut down, so the owners were essentially left without a choice if they wanted to have any negotiating power.
A lockout means the annual Winter Meetings will likely be canceled and the Rule 5 Draft will be postponed until a new CBA is reached.
Barring an unforeseen turn of events, it seems likely that this lockout could last for awhile. Major League Baseball players' salaries are not paid during the offseason, so players won't feel the financial pressure to "give in" on owners demands until spring training nears. By the same token, owners aren't really generating revenue in the off-season, so they aren't going to feel the sting of the lockout until games could be canceled.
For now, players are scheduled to report to Spring Training in mid-February.
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