Major League Baseball announces first work stoppage since 1994

(Photo by Mick Haupt/Courtesy of

By Daniel Treacy
Boston University News Service 

Major League Baseball entered its first work stoppage in more than two decades Wednesday night, as owners announced a lockout minutes after the 2016 collective bargaining agreement expired. 

“We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a post-lockout statement.

The lockout marks the ninth work stoppage in MLB history but the first since the 1994-1995 players’ strike.

A lockout prevents players from signing contracts or being traded, using team facilities, and communicating with their own team’s management. MLB canceled the Winter Meetings scheduled for Dec. 6 to  Dec. 9, which typically brings general managers, players and agents together to negotiate free-agent contracts and trades. The 2022 season doesn’t begin until March 31, though teams do begin spring training in mid-February. 

Locking out the players will “jumpstart” negotiations in order to prevent any games from being canceled, Manfred said. 

The commissioner took aim at the players, arguing in a statement, “it appears the Players’ Association came to the bargaining table with a strategy of confrontation over compromise.” A final meeting before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement lasted just seven minutes on Wednesday.

The Players’ Association hit back at Manfred, saying in their own statement that the lockout is “specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits.” 

During a press conference on Thursday, Players’ Association executive director Tony Clark accused Manfred of “misrepresentations” in the league’s statement. 

The Boston Red Sox were one of the busiest teams ahead of the lockout announcement. Boston made one of the league’s final transactions before the lockout took effect Wednesday night, trading outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers in a deal that brought back outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. along with two prospects. Bradley previously spent eight seasons with the Red Sox from 2013-2020. 

In addition, the Red Sox announced the signings of starting pitchers James Paxton and Rich Hill less than an hour before the lockout was announced. 

Hill, who turns 42 in March, is the oldest active pitcher in baseball and is joining the Red Sox for the third time in his career. Paxton has made 137 starts over nine major-league seasons but made one start this past season before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.

When the lockout ends, the Red Sox may still have some business to take care of. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber, whom the team has expressed interest in retaining, is still a free agent and could have a path to returning after the trade of Renfroe. 

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said last month that the team was interested in middle infield help, which could also become a focus after the lockout. 

The players and owners will need to agree to solutions on several controversial proposals, including postseason expansion, a salary floor for teams, and a quicker path to free agency, in order to formulate a new collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout. 

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