The baseball hot stove has just begun; a trade was made earlier this week and the signing of Willie Bloomquist to what appears to be a way-above-market free-agent deal must give guys like Aaron Miles dollar signs dancing in their heads.
It all makes for a busy offseason and has fans looking forward to 2012 -- except there's one small obstacle in the way; the labor agreement between MLB owners and players expires on Dec. 11. Given the rancor currently between NBA owners and players, could we have a labor stoppage in baseball?
Not likely. I'm no big fan of Bud Selig, but since the disastrous strike of 1994 that cancelled the World Series, Selig and his MLBPA counterparts have realized that having another labor stoppage could kill the game. Instead of being at loggerheads, the two sides have realized there's enough money to go around, and since 2002 they've signed two agreements (the most recent in 2006) that have kept the game going. It's been 17 years' worth of labor peace in baseball, and for that, we as fans can all be grateful.
Wednesday, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports that the two sides are making progress in labor talks:
Negotiations in Major League Baseball's stalled labor talks have taken "a step forward" this week, according to one source familiar with the discussions, and a second source told ESPN.com it's possible a deal could be completed this week.
However, another source described the chances of an agreement this week as only about 50-50, saying that the sides had made what appeared to be similar progress in the past, only to get stuck on other issues.
The biggest current issue separating the two sides is "slotting" for bonuses for amateur draft picks; the owners would like a "hard slotting" system, the players would prefer that not to be the case. Also still in dispute is the compensation system for free agents, which currently can add dozens of draft picks to the early rounds for teams losing premier free agents. This could be one reason there haven't yet been any major free agent signings:
"It's not that unusual for things to develop slowly," one prominent agent said, "but I think the (labor uncertainty) is definitely having an effect. I think some teams just want to know a deal is in place before they start spending significant money."
There are still almost five weeks until the current agreement expires and five months before meaningful games are played. It would seem to me that given the cooperative way in which the two sides have reached deals over the last decade, another similar deal with compromises made by both sides could be reached soon.