As of 12:01 AM EST today, MLB has entered its first lockout since 1990 and first work stoppage since 1994. All players were locked out from teams, and the separation became instantly noticeable. Since a situation like this has not happened in 27 years, many people may not understand what will happen now. Here is a quick rundown of what the next few months will look like.
What is the immediate impact?
As soon as the expiration hit, the lockout went into full force. If you go to any of the team websites or the MLB home page, anything regarding current players has been pulled from the website. In fact, if you go to Brewers.com right now, any coverage regarding players has been limited to classic clips from the team’s history. The Brewers cannot officially talk about the players in any capacity during the lockout. The major league portion of the Winter Meetings will be cancelled, and the Rule 5 draft will either be postponed or cancelled as well (this might be part of the reason why David Stearns chose not to protect any players this offseason). No more transactions can happen until the lockout is over, which is why there was a flurry of transactions before the lockout began.
Players are also not allowed to interact with their teams at all while the lockout is ongoing. They can still do their own workouts at home and use workouts designed by the team from before it, but can’t interact with the team trainers or contact the team at all, except for human resources related issues. Since this is happening during the offseason, salaries won’t be impacted for the time being, though any payments scheduled to happen during this time for upcoming service may be withheld. However, deferred payments for previous service before the lockout will still be paid out.
Is this a lockout or a strike?
For right now, this is a lockout. The difference between the two sides is basically who made the decision to withhold service. Since the teams are withholding their team services from the players, it is considered a lockout. It is not a strike since the players are not on strike from anything right now. It’s the offseason so there’s nothing that they can technically be on strike from at this time. The owners are initiating a lockout for now to try to hasten negotiations so there will not be a delay to the season.
What is the main issue in the negotiations right now?
The main issue between the two sides at this time comes down to player compensation. In recent years, players believe they have not received a fair chance to get the full compensation that they deserve. While the top players still receive lucrative contracts, the middle tier players find themselves replaced more often with younger players under team control and are having trouble getting good deals for themselves. Rebuilding teams that minimize payroll limit their opportunities to earn good contracts. Service time manipulation has become a bigger issue in recent years as well, with teams trying to get an extra year out of their top prospects. Many of these issues need to be addressed in a new CBA. On the other side, owners believe the players are already in a good position and want fewer changes to the current system.
Does this mean the season will be delayed or canceled?
For now, the 2022 season is not in jeopardy. When it comes to actual games, the CBA expiration should be seen as more of a soft deadline over anything else. While it will affect the offseason, there's still plenty of time to strike a deal and start the season on time. The next soft deadline will be late January to early February, so spring training can start on time and everything for the season will stay on track. If not, spring training games will start getting cut, and eventually there will be a hard deadline to hit or regular season games will also be canceled.
What will the effect be on the minor league season?
Since the minor league players and teams are not part of the CBA, there will be little to no effect on the minor league season. The only effect is that any players in the minors who are also on a 40-man roster or are on a major league contract will not be allowed to play. However, the teams can continue to hold offseason workouts, start their spring training on time, hold extended spring training, and begin the minor league season on time. They will continue to operate under their contracts with their parent teams. That means that the Nashville Sounds, Biloxi Shuckers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Carolina Mudcats, and the various rookie league teams in Arizona and the Dominican Republic can continue as normal, though with a few players potentially missing.
How concerned should we be?
At this point, mild to moderate concern is warranted. The fact that we got to a lockout is a problem. In fact, the last meeting between the players and owners lasted just seven minutes. The two sides still have a lot of ground to cover for a new CBA to come together. The good news is there’s still more than two months to come to a deal and start spring training on time. Getting to a lockout is definitely a problem, and that is cause for concern in the next few months. However, nothing is at risk yet.
For any other questions in regards to the lockout, MLB.com has put together a primer on what to expect with this lockout. This is written from the owner and commissioner’s perspective, so keep that in mind while reading. ESPN also has more details on the lockout, focusing more on a neutral perspective for both sides, but also explaining the players’ position more clearly.