Major League Baseball and the Players Association continue their talks toward a new labor agreement, but one official close to the situation said Thursday that he doesn't expect any "meaningful news'' on bargaining until next week at the earliest.
According to several reports, the issue of signing bonuses in the first-year player draft remains the major obstacle to a deal. Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners reportedly want a "hard slotting'' system that would tie each draft choice's bonus to where he's picked. The players have traditionally opposed such a system.
It's unclear what other issues might be standing in the way of a deal. Baseball had initially hoped to announce a new collective bargaining agreement during the World Series. But that informal deadline passed, and the current agreement is scheduled to expire Dec. 11.
Baseball's negotiations have taken place without the public rancor in the other major sports, and officials from both sides have publicly and privately expressed confidence that a deal will be reached. The NBA season is threatened by an ongoing lockout, and the NFL salvaged its season with a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement in late July.
During the World Series in St. Louis last week, Selig characterized the talks between Players Association leader Michael Weiner, and MLB's lead negotiator, Rob Manfred, as "constructive'' and "very thoughtful.'' Selig said the sport has come a "long way'' from the contentious labor negotations that were so commonplace in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
In the absence of a new agreement, business continues to go on as usual. As of Thursday, the five-day free agent filing period ended and players were free to sign with other clubs. And the media focus continues to fall on where Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and the game's other top free agents will sign rather than the status of labor talks.
Senior writer Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.