Guardians inaugural season further delayed as MLB lockout continues after failed negotiations

The earliest an agreement could be now reached between the MLB and MLBPA is now Thursday, March 3.

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On Tuesday evening MLBPA player leaders agreed unanimously not to accept MLB's final proposal, and there was no deal on a new collective bargaining agreement before the MLB's 5 p.m. ET deadline. The MLB had threatened to cancel its March 31 Opening Day without a new deal and league commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that Tuesday after talks fell apart.

"The calendar dictates that we're not going to be able to play the first two series of the regular season and those games are officially canceled," said Manfred. “We’re prepared to continue negotiations. We’ve been informed that the MLBPA is heading back to New York, meaning that no agreement is possible until at least Thursday. As such, camps could not meaningfully operate until at least March 8, leaving only 23 days before the scheduled Opening Day.

"The clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible. To that end, we want to bargain and agree with the Players’ Association as soon as possible.”

The Cleveland Guardians were set to kick off their season on March 31 at Progressive Field against the Kansas City Royals. Formerly known as the Cleveland Indians, the Guardians would be starting their first season under a new moniker, finally distancing themselves permanently from the formerly racist Chief Wahoo-laden identity.

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“I had hoped against hope that I would not have to have this particular press conference, in which I am going to cancel some regular season games," Manfred said in his opening statement. "We worked hard to avoid an outcome that’s bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs. I want to ensure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party. The players came here for nine days, they worked hard, they tried to make a deal and I appreciate their effort. Our committee of club representatives committed to the process. They offered compromise after compromise and hung in past the deadline to make sure that we exhausted every possibility of reaching an agreement before the cancellation of games.

"So far, the parties have failed to achieve their mutual goal of reaching an agreement. The unfortunate thing, maybe the most unfortunate thing, of that agreement – the one we offered to our players – offered huge benefits for our fans and our players. We have listened to the Players’ Association throughout the process. Our primary goal of the Players’ Association has been to increase pay for young players. I said in Orlando and I’ll say it again, we agree and share that goal."

On Tuesday evening MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that at least the first two series of the season will now be delayed due to the latest snag in the MLB lockout.

The MLB's final proposal, which was delivered before 4 p.m. Tuesday, featured an increase from $25 million to $30 million in a pre-arbitration bonus pool each year for the length of the deal, while the union wants to begin with $85 million in the pool and go up by $5 million each year. On collective balance tax thresholds, the league's last offer remained the same as its previous one, which started at $220 million and was flat for three years before going up to $224 million in Year 4 and $230 million in Year 5. The union wants to start at $238 million with raises to $244 million, $250 million, $256 million and end at $263 million.

The league also increased its proposal for minimum salaries from $675,000 to $700,000, moving up to $10,000 per year. Those figures are based on there being an increase to 12 postseason teams and the addition of five lottery slots in the draft. Manfred disputed reports that the league offered a "best and final offer" before the deadline, saying that there's always "a little wiggle room" when it comes to negotiations like these.

“We never use the phrase, ‘Last, best and final offer’ with the union. We said to them it was our best offer prior to the deadline to cancel games," Manfred said. "Our negotiations are deadlocked right now, but that’s different than the legal term in passing.

“I think that ‘take it or leave it’ in a negotiation is not something I think is usually productive. I think always at the end there’s a little wiggle room somewhere. I think that we like to keep the idea that we’re willing to go back to the table and figure out whether we can make an agreement.”

As of now, there are no scheduled negotiations between the two sides, but Manfred said the league is doing everything possible to end this lockout. The earliest talks could resume is this Thursday between the league and the MLBPA.

“Nothing’s scheduled right now. We made a proposal this afternoon. I believe without exception every topic we have made the last proposal," Manfred said. "Every single issue in the basic agreement we have made the last proposal. You draw your own conclusion as to who ought to be next.

“The only thing I can say is that from the perspective of the commissioner’s office and the clubs, we are doing our very, very best to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, it’s not something that’s solely in our control. It takes two parties to reach an agreement and we will continue to be committed to that process."

It's unlikely that both sides come to an agreement by Thursday and that the lockout will continue. Spring Training games for February 25 through March 7 will not be played while both sides negotiated and it seems that there won't be any Spring Training play in general at this rate. By Manfred's estimation, the earliest the Guardians could make their debut is on Friday, April 15 at home against the San Francisco Giants. For a team trying to rekindle a new identity after being known as the Indians for nearly 100 years, it's imperative that it happens sooner instead of later.

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