Major League Baseball lockout appears imminent after negotiations end abruptly

IRVING, Texas -- A lockout of Major League Baseball players appeared imminent after talks between the league and union ended after just seven minutes of negotiations Wednesday afternoon, less than 12 hours before the expiration of the game's collective-bargaining agreement.

In what's likely to be the last talks between the parties before the league's expected lockout of players Thursday, leaders for both sides met at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas. When the meeting adjourned minutes later, officials from the league left the hotel and players were told talks were done for the day.

It was an ignominious end to three days of bargaining that produced no progress after months of talks had done the same. While there was hope that the face-to-face meetings would generate some movement, no proposals gained traction.

Some players departed the hotel with their luggage, resigned to the implementation of a lockout, a management tool that prevents employees from reporting to work. Should the league impose the lockout as expected, it would be the ninth work stoppage in MLB history and the first since the 1994-95 strike.

During a lockout, free agency and trades of major league players are not allowed. The freeze would come on the heels of one of the most active periods in the history of MLB free agency, with teams guaranteeing more than $1.6 billion to players thus far this winter.

The chasm between the sides centers on the game's core economics. The union's proposal this week included playoff expansion to 12 teams and the ability to put patches on uniforms. The players remain steadfast in their desire to remove artificial restraints on free agency, get players paid more at earlier ages, fix service-time manipulation and address tanking.

Before the meetings, the league had proposed a 14-team postseason in a package that included an increase of the competitive-balance-tax (CBT) threshold from $210 million to $214 million -- with growth that would increase to $220 million. The union's proposal had included a reduction from its previous ask of a $248 million CBT to $245 million.

In the seven-minute session, the union rejected a proposal by the league to drop certain issues -- including any change of the six-year reserve before a player can reach free agency -- from discussions.

When it ended, deputy commissioner Dan Halem and Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort, who have led the league's bargaining, departed with no plans to return.