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MLB lockout: What's a stake in first work stoppage since 1994-95

Yahoo Sports reporter Hannah Keyser details the latest regarding the MLB lockout.

Video transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, bad news for baseball fans out there, as the labor dispute spills over for the first work stoppage of Major League Baseball since the '90s, as the players union and the league are moving farther and farther apart in coming together on a collective bargaining agreement. MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, calling the lockout the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. The players union maybe not on board with that same belief.

And for more on that, I want to bring on Hannah Keyser, Yahoo Sports reporter joins us right now for more on where these talks go from here. And Hannah, when we talk about a lockout, you know, it's been a while. I think back to the '90s about what happens and I guess the risks to actually getting baseball next year. So I mean, how do you assess where we're at right now?

HANNAH KEYSER: Right, so Rob Manfred referenced the fact that this is a lockout in protection of the 2022 season. So he's not totally wrong about that. The reason we tend to get lockouts instead of strikes these days when we get work stoppages in the major sports is because then the owners can control the timing of it. And specifically, they're trying to control the timing to keep it to the off season. The 1994, '95 strike was the big example of what can happen when you try to let the season start without a new CBA in place.

That said, don't let the owners convince you that they had to do this. So it's not a necessary step. The CBA expired at 11:59 last night. And the owners moved pretty much immediately for a lockout. They could have kept negotiating, and they could have sort of let free agency and trade continue to play out. They didn't want to do that because they thought that that wouldn't sort of put enough pressure on the players to get a deal done well in advance of the 2022 season.

AKIKO FUJITA: So, Hannah, what are the key sticking points right now? And I'm counting, what, 10 to 11 weeks until spring training starts? You know, how realistic is that that this drags on?

HANNAH KEYSER: So the key sticking points are really that the last couple of CBAs have largely gone the owners' way. That's a vast oversimplification, but the combination of some of the rules set out in the last couple of CBAs and the way that the game has evolved to sort of prioritize younger, more valuable-- and by valuable, I mean underpaid players-- means that players are not seeing sort of salaries commensurate with their production either when they're younger because they're under team control, and they're not getting those big free agent paydays in their 30s like they used to, because now we just sort of understand aging curves. And we know that you shouldn't give sort of 15-year deals or even 10-year deals to guys in their early 30s.

So a big sticking point for the players right now is sort of getting players paid earlier. So the first six years of a player's career, they're under team control. They don't get to test the free market. They don't even get to sort of negotiate their salary until year 3. And so right now, what we're looking at is the biggest fight is over either getting arbitration earlier or getting free agency earlier or creating a path to free agency earlier, some way of getting those players years 1 through 6 paid more, paid more commensurate with what they would get on a free market.

You asked about where we go from here and what the likelihood is that we're not going to miss games. It's a little tricky to tell. So spring training is sort of like a soft, squishy deadline. It's supposed to start in February. It's six weeks long to set us up for a March 31st opening day. Some people say it doesn't need to be quite as long. We saw in 2020 the summer camp that they had before the shortened 2020 season was only three weeks.

So in order to get games-- in order to get the regular season in, we would need to have somewhere between three and six weeks of spring training. That gives us, like, two months to get a deal done. They both say they're motivated right now. They don't have any further bargaining talks or negotiation talks on the calendar right now, but we could see that as soon as next week or later this month.

AKIKO FUJITA: Hannah, I can't help but point out those big contracts that we saw ahead of this lockout period. And I will tell you, as a Dodgers fan, I mean, it was painful, right? You saw the big contracts for Corey Seager, Max Scherzer. I mean, a one-day record of $1.4 billion? Does that strengthen this argument that you're just pointing to?

HANNAH KEYSER: Yeah, so the league would point to that and say, clearly, this system is working. The league and the owners, they would be happy with the status quo. They have things on the table. They've made proposals. They want an expanded postseason. There are things like that that they want. They'd love an international draft. But they'd settle for the status quo because it's sort of working. They feel like they've made a lot of gains in the past couple of CBAs. And they would point to the recent free agency to say, what's wrong with the current system?

And that's true that it does seem to be working for these top end players. But that's been true for a while now. So, over the course of the last CBA, the one that was negotiated in 2016, we saw average player salaries drop, even though there were these, like, marquee $300 million Bryce Harper, Manny Machado deals. So it's interesting the way it's a little bit how economics have worked around the country these days, is that the rich-- that it's becoming increasingly sort of stratified.

Also, I thought what was really interesting about what we saw this past couple of weeks in free agency-- you talked about how the Dodgers didn't do a ton-- a lot of these deals were signed by not the big spending teams. So the three biggest spending teams of the past couple of weeks were the Mets with their incredibly rich new owner, Steve Cohen, the Rangers, and the Tigers, who are two teams who have had really low payrolls the last couple of years. They've been bad. They've had these low payrolls. And now they're looking to contend. And so they really took advantage of the market to quickly swoop in and sign some players when the Dodgers and Yankees were waiting to see how this might play out.

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