Negotiations in Major League Baseball's stalled labor talks have taken "a step forward" this week, according to one source familiar with the discussions, and a second source told ESPN.com it's possible a deal could be completed this week.
However, another source described the chances of an agreement this week as only about 50-50, saying that the sides had made what appeared to be similar progress in the past, only to get stuck on other issues.
Owners and players have been stalled for weeks over management's push for a hard slotting system for amateur draft picks. The players' union has adamantly resisted hard slotting, so the sides have been exploring alternatives based on "luxury taxes" or other incentives designed to keep spending on the draft within more rigid limitations.
The other major issue that is still unresolved is a change in compensation for premier free agents. The union is pressing for a new system that would either no longer require teams to give up first-round draft picks as compensation for signing a top free agent, or would like to reduce the number of players who would qualify as "Type A" free agents.
Club officials and agents both believe the uncertainty over those changes, and whether they would take effect this winter, has had an impact on the current free-agent market.
"It's not that unusual for things to develop slowly," one prominent agent said, "but I think the (labor uncertainty) is definitely having an effect. I think some teams just want to know a deal is in place before they start spending significant money."
Senior writer Jayson Stark covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.