ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has news we probably don’t want to hear:
With Major League Baseball's winter meetings scheduled to start in less than a week, sources say club officials are aware of the possibility that teams won't participate if there is not sufficient progress in the on-going collective bargaining discussions.
The current agreement expires Dec. 1, and the two sides are in negotiations in Dallas. The conversations have been far from seamless, and though sources on both sides believe the unsettled issues are not of such gravity that they threaten the integrity of the upcoming season, talks have progressed slowly.
If the owners take the formal step of locking out the players once the current agreement expires, teams likely would not send representatives to the winter meetings in Washington, D.C.
December 1 is just two days from now. If I had to guess, I’d think this is just posturing from one side or the other (likely ownership, to push the players into a deal they might not want) in order to get an agreement by the deadline.
More likely, in my view, would be an announcement before Thursday that even though the two sides have not reached an agreement, there won’t be a lockout and that the game would continue to be governed by the expiring deal. That could cause other issues, because teams might not be willing to make long-term contract offers to free agents not knowing exactly what terms the new CBA would have.
After more than two decades of labor peace in baseball, I doubt that Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA chief Tony Clark would want to be known as the pair that forced MLB back into a work stoppage, or even something that cancelled an event as highly-followed as the Winter Meetings.
Late Wednesday, in fact, the owners appear to have dropped one key point of contention:
Sources: Owners have backed off the international draft as a requirement for a new collective-bargaining agreement.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 29, 2016
Sources: Owners’ willingness to back off international draft stemmed from desire to move talks forward. Has yet to achieve desired effect.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 29, 2016
Let’s hope they make enough progress in the next couple of days that next week’s event goes on as scheduled.