TORONTO – While an on-time start to spring training is rapidly becoming an impossibility, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism Thursday morning that the ongoing lockout will not delay the start of the 2022 regular season.
“I’m an optimist and I believe we’ll have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule.” Manfred told reporters. “I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry. I’m committed to reaching an agreement.”
Speaking at the MLB owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., Manfred said league officials are preparing to present the players with an offer covering core economic issues on Saturday.
“We’re going to make a good-faith, positive proposal in an effort to move the process forward,” Manfred said. “It’s a good proposal.”
The league has made concessions worth a cumulative total of hundreds of millions of dollars, Manfred said. Among the expected changes for 2022 is the implementation of a universal designated hitter in both leagues. Expanded playoffs are also likely, though the specifics are still up for discussion.
Spring training had been scheduled to open in less than a week, on Feb. 16. Now, the question is whether a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached in time for the season to begin as scheduled, on March 31. Manfred said the league has no plans to play games of any kind without 40-man roster players.
While players may not need a full six-week spring training to prepare, many observers see four weeks as a minimum to ensure pitchers are stretched out and hitters have the chance to establish some timing. Until a new CBA exists, players cannot work out at team facilities, but Manfred suggested camps could open in less than a week once an agreement is reached.
Owners imposed the current lockout on Dec. 2, then waited 43 days to make the players an offer. Since then the sides have exchanged proposals, making incremental concessions along the way without getting close on major issues such as MLB minimum salaries or competitive balance tax penalties and thresholds.