CBA Negotiations Not Going Well, Could Result in ‘2 1/2 Months of Pain’

With just three weeks to go before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, there’s little optimism about a deal being reached quickly. The owners will almost certainly institute a lockout on December 1, halting all offseason activities at a time when interest in the sport is typically as high as ever due to all the offseason rumor-mongering.

One management source told Jon Heyman the relationship between players and owners is “As bad as I’ve ever seen it,” though exactly what that means we really don’t know. The source added that there could be “2 1/2 months of pain” as a new deal is hammered out, a term that actually seems pretty good when you think about it.

A fresh CBA being implemented right around the time pitchers and catchers report would create a mad scramble that would probably drive interest in a big way. Pushing report dates back and trimming a few exhibition games wouldn’t be that bad, either. The real issue would come from trying to figure out all those big free agent deals, many of which were stretching into spring training even under normal circumstances.

We’ll probably see a lot of lower-tier players trying to lock in commitments early in order to avoid having to take the first offer that comes their way should negotiations drag out. The possibility of a salary floor could mean bigger deals for those players who aren’t angling for mega-deals, though a potential cap — something the union vehemently opposes — could squeeze a lot of guys outside that elite level.

The key to any of this is that owners need to be willing to tie any salary constraints to league revenues. Players have seen average salaries go down relative to revenues over the past decade or so and the qualifying offer — equal to the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players — dropped by $500,000 this year. Owners want to maintain the biggest piece of the pie and to hide the nature of said pie from the public, but they need to be willing to bend in a few areas.

Service time and QO structure are also up for discussion because those items currently serve as cudgels with which owners are able to strike players down. But, again, owners are loath to give up the power they’ve spent so long acquiring and wielding.

Having a lockout of just 10 weeks or so is much more amendable to a lengthy work stoppage that shuts the season down for the second time in three years, I’m just not confident things will be that simple.

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