On December 2, 2021, immediately after the last collective bargaining agreement between the MLB owners and the players expired on December 1, the owners commenced a lockout of major league players while the two sides negotiated on a new agreement.
In Major League Baseball, a lockout means that the free agency process would be frozen with some big names still on the market. This freezing is why we saw such a swarm of signings leading up to the CBA expiration date. Since all transactions will be held, a lockout also means no trades. Players will be barred from using team facilities during the lockout, and if the stoppage lasts for more than just a few days, then the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 Draft will be cancelled and postponed indefinitely, respectively.
As lockout stretches into January, the exchange of arbitration figures between eligible players and their teams is delayed. An agreement was not found in January, and the spring training schedule was imperilled. The worst-case scenario is that the lockout lasts long enough to force the rescheduling or even cancellation of regular-season games.
MLB officially announced that spring training would start no earlier than March 5, meaning that all games through March 4 have been cancelled. For example, these are the home and away spring matches of the MLB team Philadelphia Phillies that were cancelled:
- Feb. 26 at New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.
- Feb. 27 vs Minnesota Twins at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla.
- Feb. 27 at Toronto Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla.
- Feb. 28 at Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
- March 1 vs Detroit Tigers at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla.
- March 2 vs New York Yankees at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla.
- March 3 at Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
- March 4 vs Atlanta Braves at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla.
A lockout is a tool that owners can use. Leagues can operate without a new collective bargaining agreement in place, but it is common practice in the four prominent men’s North American professional sports leagues — MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL — to use a lockout in instances like this.
Has the MLB ever missed any regular-season games due to a lockout? – No, the MLB has never missed any regular-season games because of an owner lockout. It has missed games for player strikes.
The MLB says there have been eight work stoppages prior to the current stoppage — three owner lockouts and five player strikes. None of the three previous owner lockouts in MLB history has resulted in cancelled regular-season games, but three of the player strikes have cancelled games — including an entire postseason during the 1994-1995 strike.