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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/2/21

MLB lockout begins; what offseason work stoppage entails; why big-market teams were inactive; MLB tampering with baseballs again; Freeman, Correa, shortstop rumors 

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Baseball Lockout Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

ESPN | Jeff Passan: For years, we have known that this round of negotiations between the league and the players’ union over the Collective Bargaining Agreement would result in a labor dispute. And now, at last, that day is here, as Major League Baseball enters its first work stoppage since the infamous 1994-95 strike. This time, however, it’s a lockout, an ownership-initiated freeze in the midst of what had been one of the most active free agent spending sprees ever. Negotiations between the two sides lasted until yesterday afternoon, ending abruptly after a seven-minute meeting between the two sides in Irving, Texas, where the league attempted to coerce players into making several concessions.

The issue, of course, is MLB’s financial structure, which has been the source of almost all the drama. From what we can gather, it appears that the league’s final proposals included a 14-team playoff with an “increase” in the luxury tax threshold from $210 to $214 million (barely an increase at all), while the union countered with a 12-team playoff and a $245 million threshold.

Although Passan doesn’t get into it in his piece, in truth there was no way a deal was happening at all yesterday. As if to ensure that they would be able to institute a lockout, the owners demanded a reduction in the funding for the players’ pensions — a definitive non-starter, and believed by the players not to be a serious ask, but a tool to delay the negotiations until later in the winter, when the owners believe they will have more leverage.

Editor’s note: Shortly after the 12am news post went live, MLB put out a highly disingenuous statement from Rob Manfred. Read it if you’d like, as it’s not hard to find, but we’re not linking to it.

CBS Sports | Mike Axisa: What does a lockout mean? During the regular season, it would be obvious: no games would be played. An offseason lockout, however, will likely be more subtle. Beyond the inevitable public sniping at each other by representatives of ownership and the union via social media, we will see a transaction freeze, so there will be no trades or free agent signings that involve members of the MLBPA (minor leaguers who have not yet been added to a 40-man roster could still see themselves moved in deals, although that is probably unlikely).

Additionally, players will not be allowed to have any contact with their coaches, nor will they be allowed to train at club facilities; significantly, this means that injured players cannot rehab with their team’s trainers. Last, but certainly not least, players would be free to play overseas and in unaffiliated leagues should the lockout last into the time when the season would begin, while the affiliated minor leagues would go on as normal — just without any player who is in the union.

The Athletic | Evan Drellich: Normally, we try to avoid posting links that are behind a paywall here, but for those of you who have a subscription to The Athletic, I want to call your attention to the work by Evan Drellich, who has been on the ground in Texas reporting on the negotiations. To summarize his work, here are his own tweets:

MLB Trade Rumors | Mark Polishuk: Another factor that could complicate this negotiation is the revelation that MLB not only used both the 2019-20 “juiced” ball and the 2021 “dead” ball throughout the 2021 season, they continued to manufacture both balls the entire time, according to a report from Bradford William Davis of Business Insider (subscription required).

Although the league claimed in a statement that the union knew both types of balls were still in use because of COVID-related supply problems, representatives from the players’ union — including former Yankees closer Andrew Miller — said that they’d heard nothing from the league. Moreover, concerns have been expressed not only by players, but by coaches, managers, and front office members. Some players openly wondered if the league manipulated where balls were distributed in order to manipulate the game. | Randy Miller: The lockout was not the only baseball news out there yesterday, although it has dominated the headlines. Amid reports that Carlos Correa is going to wait until after the lockout to sign and the news that Chris Taylor had re-upped with the Dodgers, Miller reiterated rumors that have linked the Yankees to two stopgap shortstops, Texas’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa — now superfluous due to the Rangers signing both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien — and free agent Andrelton Simmons. Yeah, just the sort of moves that would get Yankees fans excited.

In terms of news that might be more intriguing to Yankees fans, Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees are in on superstar first baseman Freddie Freeman, although nobody seriously believes that he will leave Atlanta.

FOX 46 Houston reporter also included the Yankees among the teams who have checked in on Correa, though it would be more revealing if the Yankees never gave him a call at all. At this point, “checking in” on someone is just that.

Last but not least, on Twitter, Buster Olney gave three reasons that the big-market teams, including the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox, have not been particularly active on the free agent market so far.