With the World Series finished and the Atlanta Braves crowned champion, all eyes now turn to the ongoing labor negotiations that will determine baseball’s future.

Next month Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement is due to expire, and if the owners and players can’t reach a new deal before 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1, the sport will experience its first work stoppage in 26 years.

What does that mean? and what issues are the owners and players trying to work out? Here’s a quick primer on what exactly is going on and what fans can expect these next few months.

What is the collective bargaining agreement?

The collective bargaining agreement is the agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association describing the rules of employment and the financial structure of the game. It pretty much lays the ground rules for how the business of baseball will operate, covering matters like contract structures, free agency, revenue sharing specifics, rule changes and pretty much every other issue you can imagine.

The negotiations are complex and often contentious, and on eight previous occasions have resulted in work stoppages. The most recent was the 1994-95 players strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series, though since then the owners and players have been able to reach an accord in 2002, 2006, 2011 and most recently 2016 before the prior agreement expired.

This time most around the game are pessimistic an agreement will be reached by Dec. 1 and that the most likely outcome will be a lockout.

A lockout? What would that mean?

A lockout is when management refuses to allow its employees to work, which in the context of baseball means the owners effectively shut down the sport in hopes of pressuring players into accepting their terms. It is the opposite of a strike, in which the players refuse to play in order to force concessions from management.

If the owners lock out the players after Dec. 1 then all baseball business will cease until the work stoppage ends. That means no free agency, no winter meetings, and if the lockout stretches into the spring then possibly disruptions to spring training and the regular season. That’s when the dispute would really come to a head, as players don’t receive paychecks during the offseason and wouldn’t face significant financial hardship until games start getting cancelled.

What does each side want?

Fundamentally, players believe their share of the game’s revenues have decreased over the past few years and they want to implement measures to address that. Specifically, there is concern that younger players are being underpaid and that the emphasis on younger, cheaper talent has led to decreased payrolls, and thus less money for the players overall.

Issues like service-time manipulation, when clubs hold back prospects in the minors to push back their eventual free agency by a year, and tanking, when clubs intentionally field noncompetitive teams in hopes of landing higher draft picks, largely stem from that main complaint. Some specific avenues players could seek include raising minimum salaries and lowering the service time thresholds for arbitration and free agency.

Owners hope to more or less maintain the status quo while expanding the playoffs and instituting a draft for international players. The Competitive Balance Tax, which has come to function as an unofficial soft salary cap, will also be a major discussion point.

Could rule changes be coming?

In addition to the key financial issues, several rule changes could also be up for discussion. The institution of a universal designated hitter across the sport is considered a fait accompli, but other potential changes like limits on the size of pitching staffs and rules designed to speed up the pace of play may be on the horizon as well.

Limiting the size of pitching staffs would help reverse the recent trend away from starting pitchers by limiting teams’ ability to rely on a parade of relief pitchers to get through games. It would also help starters maintain their place as premium attractions who command top dollar on the market, but would also reduce the number of big league pitching jobs overall. Possible pace of play solutions could include a pitch clock, limits on the shift and larger bases to help encourage base stealing.

Other rules instituted during the pandemic, like seven-inning doubleheaders and the runner on second to start extra innings, are unlikely to return.

Where do negotiations stand now?

It’s difficult to say, but the sense around the sport is that the two sides are far apart and that a lockout is “almost certain.”

Most of what we do know comes from a handful of public reports concerning proposals the owners have made to the players. Those include a payroll floor of $100 million plus a lower CBT threshold of $180 million, automatic free agency when a player turns 29 1/2 years old, elimination of arbitration and the creation of a $1 billion pool for all eligible players in its place.

None of those proposals are likely to be taken seriously by the players, as they would all exacerbate the problem of revenue shifting towards ownership. It’s not clear what counteroffers, if any, the players have made to the owners, but what is clear is baseball has a long and uncertain winter ahead of it.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

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