(Reuters) – Major League Baseball locked out its players on Thursday after failing to reach terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ahead of a midnight deadline.
The decision halts all player activity as relates to their clubs including free-agent signings, trades and use of team facilities.
“Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
“Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 2.”
The lockout marks the first work stoppage in MLB since the players’ strike of 1994-95.
That dispute forced a premature end to the season, delayed the start of the following year’s campaign and turned off fans, with attendances plummeting when play finally resumed.
“The shutdown is a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing,” the players’ association (MLBPA) said.
“It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals.
“These tactics are not new. We have been here before, and players have risen to the occasion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations. We will do so here again.”
Among the main problem areas, media reports said, were owners and players not agreeing on service time toward free agency, playoff expansion, a luxury tax and possible salary floor, and several proposed rule changes.
ESPN reported that the league had offered to remove direct draft-pick compensation and suggested a draft lottery to disincentivize teams from ‘tanking’ to get a higher draft position.
Manfred said MLB had offered to establish a minimum payroll for all clubs, allow the majority of players to reach free agency earlier, and boosting compensation for all young players including increases in the minimum salary.
“When negotiations lacked momentum, we tried to create some by offering to accept the universal designated hitter, to create a new draft system using a lottery similar to other leagues, and to increase the competitive balance tax threshold that affects only a small number of teams,” he added.
“To be clear: this hard but important step does not necessarily mean games will be canceled.”
The 2022 season is not scheduled to begin until March while players are scheduled to report to ‘Spring Training’ in mid-February.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)