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Report: As MLB Preps New Proposal, NBA's Experience With Lockouts Looms

If fans are hoping a new MLB collective bargaining proposal gets a deal done fast, the NBA's experience tells a different story

Major League Baseball (MLB) is reportedly preparing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal for the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), one that could be presented as early as next week. But, as The Athletic points out, that doesn’t mean an agreement is in sight.

MLB locked out the players on Dec. 2, which doesn't impact games at the moment since it's the offseason. However, all other business including free agency, trades, salary arbitration and the Rule 5 draft are all on hold until the lockout is over and a new CBA is signed. There has been little reported contact between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark since the lockout began, and the only talks that took place revolved around non-critical issues. 

The chasm between the owners and players on core economic issues such as free agency, salary arbitration and revenue sharing is well documented. So, a new offer from MLB may jump-start discussions toward a new CBA.

Or, in the experience of the NBA, it may just lead to more foot-dragging.

Evan Drellich, the author of the piece, spoke to a source familiar with previous NBA labor negotiations. While MLB is experiencing its first work stoppage of any kind in 26 years, the NBA has locked out its players four times in the past three decades.

The takeaway, per Drellich’s source? Breaking the lockout won’t be easy.

“Nothing happens until the very last minute,” the source told Drellich. “It’s a very primitive mentality that people feel the other side is not going to give its best offer until they are looking down the barrel of what’s ahead.

“The point of (a lockout) generally is to impose economic pressure. And it’s not going to happen in the beginning, because people aren’t feeling it. They’re not getting paid. The season hasn’t started. So if the point of it is to impose the economic pressure, then yeah, in theory, it’s not going to really be effective until you get to the end.”

When does MLB need an agreement? By the time pitchers and catchers report, which for some teams is as early as Feb. 15? By the time spring training games begin on Feb. 26? Or by the start of the MLB regular season, which is March 31?

Or, could it go on longer? 

The NBA lost regular-season games due to negotiating impasses in their last two lockouts. Neither side has a public timetable to complete a new CBA. However, the longer the lockout lasts, the more damage that will be done to the sport. MLB hasn't lost games due to labor negotiations since the 1994-95 players strike, which did heaps of damage to the game. 

Ultimately, labor negotiations are a game of chicken. It is no different this time around.

The prospect of an extended lockout could be part of the reason why the Rangers were one of the most active teams in free agency this offseason. Before the lockout, the Rangers signed shortstop Corey Seager to a team-record 10-year, $325 million deal, second baseman Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million deal, $175 million deal, pitcher Jon Gray to a four-year, $56 million contract and signed outfielder Kole Calhoun to a one-year deal with a team option in 2023.

In all, the Rangers spent more than half a billion dollars in free agency.

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