MLB lockout: Inauspicious start to deadline day gives way to hope

MLB and its players association held their longest day of collective bargaining yet this winter, faced with owner-imposed deadline to preserve full season.

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A group of fans watch Cubs prospect minicamp at their Mesa spring training facility, as the MLB lockout drags on.

A group of fans watch Cubs prospect minicamp at their Mesa spring training facility, as the MLB lockout drags on.

John Antonoff/Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Finally.

After 89 days, a week straight of in-person negotiation and over 16 hours of back-and-forth through deadline day, there has been significant movement in talks about a new collective-bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, multiple outlets reported.

The sides had their longest day of bargaining yet Monday in Jupiter, Florida, facing an owner-imposed deadline. MLB set Monday as the deadline to preserve an on-time Opening Day as the parties worked toward a new agreement. Early the next morning, MLB reportedly moved the deadline to Tuesday evening.

MLB and the union held bargaining meetings in Florida every day last week and through the weekend as the lockout the owners implemented Dec. 2 dragged on.

Monday started on an inauspicious note. The Athletic reported in the morning that MLB communicated a willingness to miss a month of regular-season games.

In response to the report, Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon, who attended meetings in Florida, tweeted: ‘‘Players are used to their ‘threats.’ Owners’ actions have made it clear all along that they have a set # of games where they still make profits/get TV money. They don’t want to play. It’s sad that these are the guys who drive the direction and ‘future’ of our amazing sport.’’

Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman revisited a nickname he has used before for commissioner Rob Manfred to criticize MLB’s stance.

‘‘Manclownin’ on a Monday,’’ Stroman posted to Twitter.

As the day wore on, MLB representatives traveled back and forth from the owners’ side of Roger Dean Stadium to the players’ side. On one of those walks, reporters asked for a comment, and Manfred replied: ‘‘We’re working at it.’’

Across the country, at the Cubs’ and White Sox’ spring-training facilities in Arizona, prospect minicamp continued without big-leaguers in sight.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer roamed the back fields at the Sloan Park complex, watching workouts and even stopping to take a picture with a fan.

Hoyer’s job — and the jobs of front-office members for teams across the majors — will kick into high gear when the lockout ends. And with spring training condensed, likely to four weeks, they will have to get a lot done in little time. Expect offseason transaction activity to overlap with spring training more than usual.

Teams such as the Sox, with their championship window wide-open, have more targeted needs. The Cubs, on the other hand, are in the process of building up after a trade-deadline sell-off last summer and have plenty left to do.

The Cubs did make some progress before the lockout, adding pitchers Stroman and Wade Miley, outfielders Clint Frazier and Harold Ramirez and catcher Yan Gomes before the last labor deal expired. They also re-signed outfielder Michael Hermosillo.

When the lockout ends, pitching depth and shortstop will have to be high on their list to address.

The other side of the equation is making sure players are ready for spring training on short notice, given that there hasn’t been the usual contact between coaches and players throughout the offseason. Team employees were instructed not to communicate with players on big-league rosters during the lockout.

The players seem to have found an imperfect solution. As FanSided first reported, the union has organized a training facility in Arizona for players this spring while they’re still locked out.

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