Tuesday evening, the Houston Astros will host the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the World Series. But after this year's fall classic, Major League Baseball faces a very uncertain winter.
The current collective-bargaining agreement will expire on Dec. 1, and Ronald Blum of The Associated Press reports that at the conclusion of that, an indefinite lockout "appears almost certain to start Dec. 2."
What's different from when, say, the NFL had a lockout that lasted over four months in 2011 is that free agency is slated to begin before the expiration of the current CBA. If the World Series goes to a Game 7, it will conclude on Nov. 3. The next day, eligible players can file for free agency, and six days after the World Series finishes, free agents will be eligible to sign with the 29 other clubs they aren't currently employed by.
That means that teams will have to decide before the new CBA is in place -- and before we technically even know that there will be a 162-game season in 2022 -- whether to extend an $18.4 million qualifying offer to their impending free agents. And players that are issued a qualifying offer will need to accept or decline it before knowing if the next CBA will include any changes to the structure of free agency.
To this point, mum has been the word on what may be included in a new CBA.
In August, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that one consideration in negotiations had been to institute a $100 million salary floor, which would also include the luxury tax threshold being lowered to $180 million.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post broke the news in early September that the league had proposed a universal free agent age of 29 1/2 years old, one that seemingly would be great for someone like Aaron Judge that came up at a later age, but disastrous for teen phenoms like Bryce Harper and Juan Soto.
It's not surprising that things have gone radio silent during the postseason, but that doesn't change the fact that there's only a little bit more than a month until the CBA expires.
MLB's offseason being a slow burn -- as opposed to more instant gratification from the NBA and NFL's offseasons -- has seemingly hurt the sport's attempt to be seen as a 24/7/365 league. Adding in a work stoppage -- we don't know if there would be an official or unofficial freeze on all transactions -- would be bad for the sport. That's especially true when you consider that most observers of MLB were pretty frustrated with the months-long process that led to just a 60-game season in 2020, following the suspension of the season at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.