MLB owners, players still at a standstill: 'January is a huge month'
The last two seasons have been tumultuous, to put it mildly.
In 2020, major-league baseball came to a screeching halt during the final days of spring training.
COVID-19 was the culprit, and baseball had to wait four months before playing an abbreviated season that culminated with a revamped playoff format.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said the financial losses were "biblical" for all 30 MLB teams.
Last year was better, but the season opened with limited crowds and players were constantly shuffling on and off rosters due to the virus.
The new year is here and -- sorry to say -- baseball is heading for a much bigger disaster.
The collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 2 and with no new agreement in place, MLB owners locked out the players.
As expected, the two sides barely talked the rest of the month. Now that the calendar has flipped to 2022, it's time to get moving if baseball hopes to have a relatively normal season.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, no new meetings between owners and players have been scheduled for January.
That will change, and when the two sides do get back together here are some of the major issues that need to be resolved.
Competitive balance tax
This is a big one for the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Last season, the first "luxury" tax was set at $210 million for team payrolls. Only the Dodgers and Padres exceeded that threshold, In 2020, the Cubs, Yankees and Astros were the only teams that were taxed.
The MLBPA is arguing that the competitive balance tax is basically a salary cap, reportedly proposing a $245 million threshold.
Player salaries have been dropping since 2017 and teams like the Orioles, Pirates and Marlins haven't been paying their entire teams much more than baseball's highest-paid players in recent years.
The MLBPA is pushing for a salary floor, with the owners offering an initial minimum payroll of $100 million.
Raising the minimum salary, which was $570,500 last season, is also on the players' wish list.
This has been a big issue for the MLBPA for quite a while, and the Cubs' decision to send Kris Bryant to Class AAA Iowa to start the 2015 season shed some pretty harsh light on the subject.
Even though he was clearly one of the best players on the roster in spring training, Bryant had to toil in the minor leagues until April 17, which gave the Cubs an extra year of contractual control.
Since a case can always be made for giving a young player more experience in the minors, the MLBPA is hoping to get arbitration after two years rather than three and have players eligible for free agency at 29.5 years old even if they have fewer than six years of major-league experience.
If players want to gain more money from the owners, agreeing to an expanded playoff format is a solid negotiating chip.
More playoff games mean more revenue, and owners reportedly are pushing for 14 teams in the postseason instead of the usual 10.
Such a move would double the number of wild-card teams, from two to four.
Spring training is supposed to start in six weeks, so there is still some time for the owners and players to strike a bargain. They need to start talking soon.
"January is a huge month," Rangers infielder Marcus Semien said on the Chris Rose Rotation podcast.
Lucas Giolito, the White Sox's player representative, said it's time for MLB owners to fully engage in talks.
"We're here, we're ready to negotiate," Giolito said. "We're pretty much waiting on MLB. We've made our proposals, we've made multiple proposals right before they decided to lock us out. They said no, they weren't interested at the time. We're not going to negotiate against ourselves. It takes two to tango."