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The Reason Why The Owners Aren’t Going to Lift the Lockout Without A New CBA

Here’s one big reason why we won’t see the Astros, or any major league team, play anytime soon.

MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty to digest with the ongoing CBA negotiations, or lack thereof, between MLB and the player’s union. Much of it makes my eyes roll and shake my head in disappointment, but it is what it is. The owners have their objectives clear, while the players are likely hampered by what transpired under previous agreements. One side, by all appearances, is making a good faith approach to negotiations while the other, to be frank, isn’t. Again, I shake my head in disappointment.

With the owners issuing an ultimatum for this upcoming Monday with regular-season games on the line, it leaves the players in a far more precarious situation. If this deadline passes and an agreement isn’t reached, then players will lose paychecks with those canceled games not being rescheduled in the future. While the situation is far from ideal for any player, it is especially true for players on the fringes of a roster with minimum or non-guaranteed contracts.

One of the more frustrating aspects of this round of labor negotiations is that the upcoming 2022 season could still be played under the previous agreement. Yes, there could still be a Spring Training and an entire regular season if the owners were to allow one key caveat: The allowance that there wouldn’t be a collective bargaining tax, otherwise known as the CBT, for the 2022 season.

The CBT acts as a soft payroll cap for the lack of a better comparison. Teams are allowed to spend over the pre-determined thresholds, but those usually come with monetary penalties in addition to draft pick penalties if spending exceeds certain tiers. The CBT and its penalties are why you hear certain front offices mention the importance of resetting player payroll. Heck, the Astros recently did just that a couple of offseasons ago, although they weren’t as vocal about it.

Owners want to avoid a free-agent spending spree that we haven’t seen before, or at least in a long-time. As the always knowledgeable Joe Sheehan detailed in one of his recent newsletters — seriously, one of the best writers out there — we could see teams offer players like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story massive one-year contracts if there aren’t any tax thresholds and penalties holding them back. A gigantic one-year payday would be almost impossible for the players to ignore. There is no doubt that a team like the Yankees or Dodgers, who print their own money, would offer something in the $65 million-plus range for one season of Correa’s services. Honestly, the offer would probably be even higher than that.

While some owners would benefit from this situation as they could finally flex a more considerable amount of their financial muscle, it would draw the ire of owners who don’t want to spend the money. Looking at you, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Sheehan does mention the idea of tweaking the previous CBT rules as a compromise for only the 2022 season to ensure an entire season is played while labor negotiations have a chance to breathe. A compromise would also assuage a portion of owners who don’t want a free-for-all spending spree from New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.

However, considering how contentious the negotiations have been thus far, I think even a compromise of the CBT is highly unlikely. Should it happen? Yes. Could it happen? Perhaps. Am I doubtful? Most definitely. It is a solution worth exploring, though, as it could save the idea of an entire season and allow both sides of the negotiations to reassess. But it takes two to tango, and the owners have shown an unwillingness to step fully onto the dance floor.