Red Sox

5 things Red Sox fans should know about the looming MLB lockout

A closer look what Red Sox fans specifically should know about a potential labor stoppage.

Red Sox lockout
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred responds to a question Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, during a news conference in Chicago. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

At 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the current MLB collective bargaining agreement will expire, plunging the Red Sox and every other team into what most experts believe will be a lockout.

ESPN’s MLB insider Jeff Passan put together a rundown that outlines the major areas of conflict as well as the schedule over the next week, players to watch and much more. Here are five things Red Sox fans in particular should keep an eye on.

A lockout feels like an inevitability at this point.

This isn’t Red Sox-specific, but it feels important to note. The two sides are expected to debate a number of key issues, including expanded playoffs, minimum salaries, competitive balance picks, earlier paydays for young stars, the competitive balance tax (better known as the luxury tax) and service-time manipulation (leaving prospects in the minor leagues when they are clearly ready for the majors to keep them from earning a full year of service their rookie season).

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The two sides remain far apart, per Passan, despite some small amounts of progress on both sides.

“A deal will come together when the sides narrow down what’s realistic amid all of the dreaming that slows down all bargaining sessions,” Passan wrote. “The hope is that this week more clearly defines those lines, so that even if there is a lockout, the path to a deal will come more easily into focus.”

What will the next 48 hours look like in free agency?

A slew of top-tier free agents came off the market on Sunday and Monday as players looked to lock in money before the lockout began. Max Scherzer signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the Mets. Robbie Ray inked a five-year, $115 million contract with the Mariners. Corey Seager agreed to a monstrous 10-year $325 million deal with the Rangers.

But several top-tier players are still out there, including a couple who have been tied to the Red Sox in rumors. Jon Heyman reported over the weekend that the Red Sox are one of three teams with serious hopes to add Javier Baez, and he reportedly could sign before the lockout begins.

However, Carlos Correa — who has been loosely connected to the Red Sox and is considered by many the top target in the free-agent class — is not expected to sign before the CBA expires. If the Red Sox want to be in on Correa, they might have to wait (and take part in a feeding frenzy of signings after the lockout ends).

Rafael Devers is not expected to sign his extension prior to the CBA.

The Red Sox have reportedly made “zero” progress in talks with Devers, but that seems to have been expected: Extensions are usually signed in training camp rather than during the offseason.

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Still, those conversations — which will already be interesting, given the Red Sox’s history of losing homegrown talent — might be even more eye-catching in the light of a new CBA (whenever that occurs).

Red Sox fans should still be able to watch Triston Casas on schedule.

Presumably, both sides will kick things into gear if they start to run the risk of missing games. If a doomsday scenario does occur, however, the Worcester Red Sox (and Portland Sea Dogs etc.) would all be allowed to continue as scheduled, since minor league players are not part of the union. They would not, however, be allowed to bring back Jarren Duran, who was part of the 40-man roster last season. Getting a chance to watch Casas, Nick Yorke and Marcelo Mayer might be a small consolation prize.

An interesting side note: There has been some chatter about minor league players unionizing. Minor league athletes receive meager wages and many experienced housing insecurity until this past October, when MLB required minor league teams to provide their players with a place to live. Those working conditions could drive players to organize.

Red Sox owner John Henry will be at the table.

Henry — who also owns Boston Globe Media Partners, including Boston.com — is part of the seven-person labor policy committee that will argue in favor of the owners. Dick Monfort of the Rockies is the chair of the committee, which also includes Hal Steinbrenner of the Yankees.

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No Red Sox players are part of the MLBPA executive subcommittee. Two subcommittee members — Scherzer and Marcus Semien — just signed enormous deals prior to the shutdown.

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