Major League Baseball (MLB) has commenced a lockout of its players after a pair of meetings left the league and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) at a bargaining impasse.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired at midnight on Wednesday, sending the sport into its first work stoppage since 1994-95.
In a statement to fans, Rob Manfred, Commissioner of the MLB, wrote: “Today is a difficult day for baseball, but as I have said all year, there is a path to a fair agreement, and we will find it.
“I do not doubt the League and the Players share a fundamental appreciation for this game and a commitment to its fans. I remain optimistic that both sides will seize the opportunity to work together to grow, protect, and strengthen the game we love.”
While the lockout is in place, clubs cannot sign, trade or release players, or offer new contracts.
The MLBPA wants to address service time rules that restrict most young players to teams for the first six years of their career. The union also wants a luxury tax overhaul to lure teams to spend more on player salaries without fear of harsh tax penalties.
The union’s primary objective has been a significant overhaul of the sport’s economic system, including three core components that have been part of the CBA for decades: six-year free agency, Super Two eligibility, and revenue sharing.
According to sources, MLB’s proposals last week included a number of concessions to players including an NBA-style draft lottery, a universal designated hitter, an increase to the minimum player salary, an increase in the CBT (competitive balance tax) threshold, and the elimination of the qualifying offer system, which would remove draft-pick compensation from all free agents.
The union also proposed a pair of 12-team expanded postseason ideas, one of which included realignment that would create two divisions in each league – one with eight teams and another with seven.
The work stoppage comes during a free-agent frenzy that saw nearly $2 billion in deals negotiated. The deals include the Texas Rangers’ $325 million contract to land shortstop Corey Seager, and the New York Mets gave pitcher Max Scherzer a three-year, $130 million deal.
Still, players believe the current CBA doesn’t favour them; hence, they’re seeking changes.
The stoppage is the ninth in MLB history and the first since a player strike in 1994. That dispute lasted 232 days, and MLB owners also cancelled the 1994 World Series due to the strike.