OCTOBER 26: Commissioner Rob Manfred continued to express optimism about the possibility of hammering out a new agreement by December 1. Speaking with reporters (including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post) before tonight’s opening World Series contest, Manfred called agreeing to a pre-December CBA the “number one priority” for the league.
OCTOBER 25: The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on December 1, and the general expectation is that this round of talks could be especially contentious. Ronald Blum of the Associated Press casts further doubt on the likelihood of a new deal being reached by the end of November, writing that neither MLB nor the MLB Players Association believes the other side has “made proposals that will lead toward an agreement” by December 1.
We’ve gotten glimpses of some ideas being kicked around in the early stages of bargaining over the past few months. In mid-August, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported the league proposed a lowering of the first luxury tax threshold from this year’s $210MM mark to $180MM. That came with a $100MM salary floor ostensibly designed to limit tanking, although the lowered luxury tax thresholds seemed likely to be a non-starter for the MLBPA. Joel Sherman of the New York Post later added additional context on that proposal, writing that the league offered to eliminate service time considerations in favor of an age-based system that would see players hit free agency once they turned 29 1/2.
With a seemingly large gap to bridge, there’s been increasing speculation about how the potential CBA expiration could impact the offseason. As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes covered in August, teams were permitted to make moves during the last work stoppage (the 1994-95 players’ strike). Blum writes that MLB may try institute a transactions freeze this winter if the CBA expires without a new agreement. Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote last month that speculation about a transactions freeze could increase the urgency for some players and teams to hammer out contract extensions before December 1. Since then, each of Michael A. Taylor (Royals), Antonio Senzatela (Rockies) and C.J. Cron (Rockies) signed multi-year deals, although Jon Gray rejected an extension offer from Colorado.
Further complicating matters is the ongoing dispute about last year’s pandemic-shortened season. The MLBPA filed a grievance against the league a few months ago, alleging that MLB didn’t make appropriate efforts to play as many games as possible during last year’s 60-game schedule. (Player pay was prorated in 2020, so fewer games meant lower salaries). Blum now reports that the hearing on that grievance began during the final week of September. A timetable for its resolution remains unclear.