Since the negotiations between players and owners seems to be going nowhere fast. It is worth taking a moment to talk about each sides options:
The Owners: Wait it out and then hire scabs. Professional football tried this example a few years ago. MLB owners are in an even better positions to do this. They own and control the games history, infrastructure, TV rights and other revenue sources. Many teams make more money if they don't pay players and play games anyways. And since the minor league players aren't represented by the union, the owners have a ready and potentially willing set of scabs available when they do decide to start a season.
The Players: They are in a much more difficult situation. They have a limited length of time that they are marketable so every day that goes by without playing is lost revenue. The owners own or are contractually connected with the infrastructure of the stadiums and own the history, on which baseball maintains its fan base.
The owners have the upper hand, yet I believe this year represents the best opportunity ever, for the players to disengage from the current system and form their own baseball cooperative. Why:
1. Resources: Top tier player salaries are such that past and current players could inject a new cooperative league with enough start up cash to get it up and running. It would take a collective effort to front the necessary cash, but there is a lot of cash available, if the players want to keep this as a player/ former player owned cooperative.
2. Revenue Sources: MLB teams currently survive off of 48% national revenue that isn't from people attending games. Teams have shown that they can sustain a business venture with no one in attendance. ($91M per club) If a Players Union Collaborative could generate 1/2 of that, it would mean an average salary per player at conception of $2.21M per player in a 24 team league.
3. Shifting sands of revenue: Once upon a time, the ability for players to get that national revenue would have been limited. A lot of this is revenue is in the large national media contracts. But media is changing. A players cooperative could be ahead of that curve by focusing on streaming and taking advantage of competition to break the owners monopolies in these areas. Further, there are other forms of cooperative they could explore and generate revenue: I look no further than the Green Bay Packers for an option; although they could also look at European soccer clubs for a variety of ownership structures.
4. International Momentum: The current owners are not taking full advantage of the international potential of baseball. A worldwide baseball cooperative could bring players from throughout the globe into one baseball entity that would form a monopoly over the sport in countries where it is more popular than the USA.
This isn't to say that the players would/could/ should do this. There is great risk. Owners are owners because they know how to acquire, market and manage stuff to make money. Players are players because they have a wonderful skill that isn't acquiring, marketing and owning stuff. But at this time in history, like no other time in history, the players have a little bit more of an option.