The ninth work stoppage in Major League Baseball history has officially begun.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred released a letter to fans early Thursday morning confirming the league's lockout of players:
ESPN's Jeff Passan reported earlier in the evening that the lockout, which occurred after the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and MLBPA expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, was official.
Earlier that day, Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Audacy reported that the owners unanimously voted to institute that lockout.
On Wednesday, Passan reported that a lockout appeared "imminent" after MLB and MLBPA leaders held a meeting at an Irving, Texas hotel that lasted just seven minutes.
That capped three days of bargaining which Passan wrote "produced no progress after months of talks had done the same."
Manfred provided the league's side of the story in his letter, which read in part:
"I want to explain to you how we got here and why we have to take this action today. Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions."
MLBPA responded with its own statement as the union pointed its finger at the league:
This lockout marks the first work stoppage in MLB history since the 1994-95 strike, which ended up resulting in the cancellation of the end of the 1994 season and a delayed start (plus more lost games) to begin 1995.
Players have now been locked out four times, with the last occurrence taking place in 1990. That lockout was resolved early enough to avoid lost games.
ESPN's Jesse Rogers wrote a massive FAQ covering everything fans need to know about the lockout. While it could lead to missed games, Rogers noted that time is on the league and players union's sides.
Opening Day isn't until March 31, and while the lockout would need to end before then to allow players time to train before the season, it isn't as if the start of the 2022 campaign is around the corner either. Spring training doesn't start until late February.
Most importantly for now, hot stove season would come to a screeching halt. Rogers provided more information.
"Everything halts—except that teams still could talk to one another. Conceivably, trades could be consummated during the lockout but not announced until after it ends. The major league portion of the winter meetings, scheduled for next week, would be canceled. There would be little point to holding the meetings, as agents couldn't meet with teams. In fact, team personnel wouldn't even be allowed to speak to the media about players on 40-man rosters during the lockout. The minor league side of the meetings would continue. Offseason drug testing would stop as well. It would pick up as soon as a new CBA is ratified."
Passan clarified Thursday that the winter meetings have been canceled on the major league side but that they will continue for minor league baseball.
It's no surprise that recent days have featured a flurry of big-money contracts being handed out as players look to secure their 2022 (and beyond) homes.
As for when it's time to start panicking, Passan wrote that it will be problematic if no deal is done by Feb. 1, and that panic time should set in if March 1 comes and goes without a new CBA.
For now, though, the MLB and MLBPA have nearly three full months to construct a new CBA before the spring training start date.
The last CBA was ratified in Dec. 2016, with its term running from 2017 through Wednesday.