Life in the offseason is normal when it comes to the Major League Baseball – at least for a couple more weeks. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on Dec. 1, potentially putting a halt to the winter’s roster moves and possibly delaying the start of the 2022 season if a new deal isn’t reached.
Last week, the GM Meetings took place in person as usual and seemingly felt normal as uncertainty looms. Pirates’ general manager Ben Cherington joined Chris Russo on High Heat from the meetings and said, “It really has felt business as usual. All the things that you would typically spend time on at the GM meetings are things we’re spending our time on.”
Despite the sentiment at the current stage from Cherington and other front office executives around the league, Major League Baseball seems to be heading for its first work stoppage in 26 years, barring a surprising turn of events in negotiations. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman said a source told him that when it comes to negotiations, it’s “as bad as I’ve ever seen it.” This really shouldn’t come as a big surprise when we saw how difficult it was to work out an agreement to play baseball in 2020 – a deal that was agreed upon virtually at the last minute.
Negotiating a whole new collective bargaining agreement is far more complicated, and tensions between the league and the player’s association are quite high. Both sides have a number of issues to sort through. Some of the main focal points of this year’s CBA talks include – fixing the economics of the game and finding a way to level the playing field, amending how service time works, the increasing possibility of a universal DH, playoff expansion and much more.
Overall, not much has leaked when it comes to the current negotiations. The league reportedly proposed the idea of basing the salary for players prior to free agency off of their fWAR – an idea that does not seem to be well received. It’s tough to gauge how much progress has been made in the negotiations, if any has been made at all.
While it currently seems likely that a work stoppage will take place when the calendar flips to December, a delay to the start of the season would be a disastrous look for Major League Baseball – especially coming off of a 60-game Major League 2020 season in which no minor league games were played.
The uncertainty surrounding how the offseason will playout if no deal has been reached has led to a few early deals, which has typically been a rarity in MLB’s offseason. These next two weeks could lead to more free agent signings, trades and extensions while teams will still be able to operate.
That puts the Pirates in an interesting position. According to Alex Stumpf of DKPittsburghSports, the team is currently engaged with free agent Yoshi Tsutsugo. Could a potential deal be reached in the next two weeks? Typically for a rebuilding team like the Pirates, bringing in outside free agents sometimes means waiting towards the end of free agency (i.e. Tyler Anderson signing last year) or at least the non-tender deadline (Dec. 2) to see who else might be available at a reasonable price. Not to mention, the organization has to field trade offers, explore extension talks, etc. The front office may have to operate differently this year as the rest of the offseason is up in the air in terms of how it will proceed.
The league and the player’s association have exactly two weeks to go before the work stoppage kicks in. All eyes are on commissioner Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, the head of the players’ association.