MLB Lockdown: What Is Allowed And What Is Not Allowed During Baseball’s Work Stoppage?


At 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday night, the Major League Baseball collective agreement expired. Minutes later, MLB owners announced a player lockout. It is baseball’s first work stoppage since the players’ strike of 1994-95, and it is not known when it will end. Hopefully the work stoppage will end in time for spring training, although that can be optimistic.

Commissioner Rob Manfred held a press conference Thursday morning, noting the work stoppage was “bad for business” while saying he was optimistic the 2022 regular season would always start on time.

Over the past few days and weeks, the MLB and the MLB Players Association have been trading proposals, some more realistic than others, and money is at the heart of the union battle. MLB is a $ 10 billion a year business and the way that $ 10 billion is distributed is the biggest sticking point. The work stoppage will end once the MLB and MLBPA find the money, and not a second sooner.

What does a lockout look like to the average fan? If past work stoppages and last year’s return-to-play negotiations are any indication, there will be a lot of public sniping between the two sides, and we’ll see it all in real time on social media. During the 1994-95 work stoppage, we all had to wait until we saw the next day’s newspaper for the latest news. Now we see it as it happens.

With a seemingly inevitable lockout after the collective agreement expires on Wednesday night, here’s what you need to know about the work stoppage and what really happens during a lockout.

There is a transaction freeze

MLB is implementing a trade freeze during lockdown, which means that no trades or free agent signing (or waiver, release, etc.) involving players on the 40-player roster (i.e. (say members of the MLBPA). Baseball work stoppages have not always resulted in a transaction freeze (Mets traded Vince Coleman to Royals for Kevin McReynolds in 1994-95 strike) although we think we’ll see one this offseason.

Since the lockout would only involve MLBPA members, we might see signings of contracts with minor leagues or even trades involving players from the non-40 player roster during the work stoppage. These are rare, although they are technically possible.

Players are always paid (sort of)

During the lockout, players will receive any signing bonus or deferred salary payment, although they will not receive their base salary if the lockout extends into the regular season (players are only paid during the season). Here are some notable signing bonus payments due over the next few weeks:

The contract that Max Scherzer just completed with the Nationals included $ 105 million in deferred salary and the bill begins to fall due in 2022. Washington owes him $ 15 million on July 1 of each year from 2022 to 28, therefore, Even if the worst-case scenario plays out and the lockout lasts until the summer, Scherzer will still receive his deferred salary of $ 15 million on July 1.

The union can provide financial assistance to players during the lockout, although it is much less than the player’s contract salary. Some players received $ 10,000 every two weeks during the 1994-95 strike, for example. The union can also provide players with zero-interest loans in some cases, and will help cover health insurance costs if the lockout extends into the season.

No training at club facilities

This part is simple. During a lockout, the owners literally lock the players away from the club facilities, which means that no training is allowed (club organized or not). If necessary, MLBPA will operate training facilities in Arizona and Florida for players during the lockdown, similar to the union’s free agent camp in Florida during spring 2018 training.

It should be noted that this means that injured players cannot re-educate themselves at club facilities or with club sports coaches. Charlie Morton will not be allowed to rehabilitate his broken leg with Braves coaches and pitchers like Zack Britton, Tyler Glasnow, Spencer Turnbull, Justin Verlander and dozens of others having to progress in their Tommy John surgical rehabilitation away from the club.

“Really, the offseason for most players isn’t going to change because of this,” Morton told The Athletic’s David O’Brien earlier this month. “But for me personally, if I can’t go to an affiliate site for rehab – like I can’t go to (the Braves Spring Training site) to do my rehab – it won’t make impossible to do my rehab, but I’m sure the Braves would love to have their hands and eyes on me. That’s how it should be. But the guys who train and re-educate themselves at the team’s facilities with team staff. No one is really supposed to see us, so that’s going to affect the guys who train in a team facility with the team staff, or the guys who are in rehab. ”

Drug tests considered unlikely

There is no definitive answer on this yet, but it is unlikely that MLB will be able to test players for banned substances during the lockdown. For what it’s worth, the players weren’t tested for doping in the recent NFL and NHL lockouts. Under the collectively negotiated Joint Drug Agreement, players are randomly tested for banned substances year-round, with additional testing possible when a probable cause exists.

Players could play in other leagues

During the lockout, players would be allowed to play in winter leagues, independent leagues and even professional leagues abroad (Japan, Korea, etc.). There is a precedent here, as many NHL players played overseas in Europe and Russia during the league’s work stoppage in 2004-05. MLBPA would fight any attempt by a team or the MLB itself to prevent a player from playing in another league during the lockdown.

Minor leagues should continue

Based on past precedents, business is expected to continue as usual for the minor leagues during the lockdown. The notable exception is that players on the 40-player roster (i.e., MLBPA members) will be required to stand alongside their Union brethren and not play for a minor league team affiliated with the. MLB during the lockout. Players in the roster other than 40 are free to play in the minors, however, and they will not be considered crossing the picket line as replacement MLB players in the 1994-95 strike.

The 2022 minor league season is scheduled to begin on April 8, and if the lockdown extends to the point where minor league games are played but not MLB games, we could see minor league games broadcast across the board. nationwide, such as ESPN showing the Korean Baseball Organization Games during the pandemic shutdown last year. Notable minor leaguers not on their organization’s 40-man roster include Orioles wide receiver Adley Rutschman, Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Tigers outfielder Riley Greene.


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