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MLB Lockout Update: February 10

Investment advice — and embarrassing admissions — from The Big Cheese.

MLB Owners Meetings
“No, really, you’d do better in the stock market.”
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

With spring training right around the corner (five days, but who’s counting?), the pressure is on for MLB and the MLBPA to agree on a new bargaining agreement to end the lockout. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred met with owners this week in Florida, while the players and lead MLBPA negotiators met in Arizona to coordinate ahead of Saturday’s scheduled bargaining session.

Manfred held a press conference on Thursday, which many anticipated would involve a delay to spring training. Not so, apparently. Thus we can still cling to a sliver of hope that there will be actual baseball happening in a few weeks. When asked about spring training specifically, Manfred said that there was currently no change to the schedule and that MLB is still planning for Opening Day on March 31, giving off a drastically different tone than after last week’s heated meeting.

Is this posturing by ownership, to cast players in a villainous light. Hmm, let’s see ... yeah, probably.

Saturday’s meeting will continue to focus on core economic issues such as the Collective Bargaining Tax (CBT), pre-arbitration bonus pool, and minimum salaries. It will be interesting to see how these talks progress, given the large gap between the two sides in relation to these issues — and the fact that ownership has presented exactly one proposal to the MLBPA since locking players out last year.

During Thursday’s press conference, Manfred was asked if owning an MLB team is a good investment. His response was a bit amusing, saying that owning a team is “riskier than the stock market.”

The stock market claim was an odd statement, considering the rate of return for owning a team vs. the stock market. Using the White Sox as an example, we crunched some numbers to get an idea of what the rate of return would look like. The White Sox were originally purchased for $19 million in 1981 and are now valued at $1.685 billion — an 18.12% rate of return. The rate of return from the stock market is 11.87% since 1981, so if I had Jerry Reinsdorf kind of money, I’d say that the rate of return from investing in a team seems significantly better than investing into the stock market. But you do you, Rob.

Players took to Twitter, conveying their displeasure with some of Manfred’s comments, including San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood (below) — especially regarding the CBT. Relating to the comments of Gerrit Cole, the players’ main focus is fair pay, and ensuring that all teams are competitive.

With the looming deadline of Opening Day, the commissioner stated today that a week of site/team prep time needs to be tagged onto any agreement being finalized, and the players would need a minimum of four weeks to prepare for the regular season. That would establish February 24 as the drop-dead date for an agreement that preserves March 31 as Opening Day.

Players have expressed their concern for injury while potentially being rushed to get ready for Opening Day, including Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman.

Manfred also announced that minor leaguers will not be playing during spring training as “replacement players” in games. That means without an agreement by February 19 (and that is really pushing it), scheduled spring training games will end up being cancelled. (Minor leaguers will participate in spring training, and there will be B-games on the back fields as always.)

Additional topics discussed during the press conference included implementing a universal DH and eliminating draft pick compensation, which also probably marks the first time both sides have agreed since negotiations began. Of course, the “agreements” Manfred is claiming don’t mean much until an entire CBA is written up in ink, right?

Manfred stated that MLB is looking to make a “positive proposal in good faith” on Saturday, which pretty much solidifies the fact that ownership has previously NOT been negotiating in good faith.

As we get (hopefully) closer to an agreement, we are ramping up for what is likely to be the most wild free agency of all time, considering the number of players that have yet to sign with a team — the feeding frenzy that erupted just prior to the December 1 lockout might pale in comparison.

White Sox fans can still continue to speculate about potential signings, in hopes of having a more successful finish in 2022. There hasn’t been much optimism throughout this process, but, theoretically, Opening Day this March is still in play.