The two sides of MLB's lockout appear to be no closer to reaching an agreement than they were yesterday, or the day before that, or any of the days since baseball’s owners triggered the work stoppage on Dec. 2.
On Thursday, MLB declined to counter the players union’s most recent proposal, according to multiple reports. Instead, the league requested federal mediation of the collective bargaining talks, which must be approved by MLBPA. In a statement Friday, the union announced it would be denying that request — a decision widely expected because of how mediation favored the owners the last time it was used during the 1994-95 strike.
“Two months after implementing their lockout, and just two days after committing to Players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation,” MLBPA said in a statement. “After consultation with our Executive Board, and taking into account a variety of factors, we have declined this request.
“The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table. Players stand ready to negotiate.”
As things stand, the two sides are reportedly far apart on core economic issues including pay structure for players on rookie deals and service-time manipulation. MLBPA is attempting to make up ground in numerous areas where it fell short in the last two CBAs while MLB is content with the status quo and not willing to budge on many issues. Newly signed New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, a member of the union's executive subcommittee, voiced his priorities in a rare tweet.
In a normal offseason, pitchers and catchers report for spring training around the second week of February. Grapefruit League games are scheduled to begin Feb. 25 and the Cactus League kicks off the following day. However, players are already unlikely to report for spring training on time and, if an agreement isn’t reached within the next two weeks, spring training games will be the next casualty.
Opening Day will soon be in jeopardy as well. When Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season in 2020, players had only three weeks of spring training — then dubbed “Summer Camp” — to ramp up. Ahead of what the two sides hope will be a full 162-game campaign, players will likely need at least four weeks of spring training as well as a week for traveling from their offseason homes.
That five-week timetable gives MLB and the union a soft deadline of Feb. 24 to get a deal done before the lockout starts costing the sport regular-season games.