Baseball fans need to buckle in for a long winter.
The Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, 2021, marking the first time since 1994 that the deadline has passed without a new agreement being reached. Now, the league has locked out the players and frozen all transactions until an agreement is reached.
There is still a lot of offseason left, but when can people expect a new deal to be signed off?
Here are some of the most important questions that will determine how long the lockout lasts, as well as how much of the season could be on the line:
How long will the MLB lockout last?
There is no determined time for how long a lockout lasts. The league and players union already missed one deadline to reach an agreement, so there is no exact checkpoint for when one or both sides make concessions to strike a deal.
There have been eight strikes and lockouts in MLB history, all with varying lengths. The shortest one (1985) lasted just a few days, while the longest and most recent one (1994-95) lasted over seven months and led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
What can help resolve baseball’s work stoppage?
The only thing that can end the work stoppage is a deal, and the current CBA disagreement is one five years in the making.
Money has been a polarizing topic between the two sides for decades. Between service-time disputes, arbitration arguments, reserve clause contention and revenue-share discussions, the league and union are at odds over who gets a fair amount in their eyes.
The two sides held meetings in Texas this week to try and hammer out a deal before the Dec. 1 deadline, but the owners reportedly “were not pleased” with the union’s proposal on Nov. 30. A 12-team playoff format, $30 million increase in luxury-tax threshold and larger piece of overall revenue were among the ideas brought up by the players. Meanwhile, the league had previously proposed a 14-team postseason.
Based on the different stances, along with key dates for when a lockout could begin to truly cost the two sides money, there is no clear end in sight.
How can baseball’s work stoppage alter the 2022 MLB regular season?
Of the eight work stoppages in MLB history, three of them (all strikes) have led to the cancellation of MLB games. The 1972 strike canceled 86 games, the 1981 strike canceled 713 games and the 1994-95 strike canceled 938 games, along with the entire 1994 postseason.
The regular season is a pivotal date for players when it comes to a lockout. While there is the obvious risk of games being scratched from the schedule, the regular season is when the players would actually begin losing paychecks.
A deal struck after the calendar year would still have an effect on the offseason landscape even if it preserves the full regular season. An agreement in early January would allow for a compressed free agency and relatively normal spring training to commence, but it would still delay Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft and arbitration discussions. An agreement in early February would potentially allow for the conventional spring training, but there would be a greater scramble for the remaining free agents who did not sign deals before Dec. 1 on top of the other delays.
While MLB has not lost games due to a labor dispute since 1995, the league experienced a shortened season just one year ago. The 2020 campaign was trimmed from 162 games to 60 games -- with realigned divisions -- due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When is Opening Day 2022?
Opening Day is set for March 31.
When does MLB spring training start in 2022?
Before the regular season is supposed to get under way, spring training is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Feb. 26. Select exhibition games are slated for Friday, Feb. 25, as well.