After owners meetings the last three days with MLB labor negotiations set to resume Saturday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism that we will see no spring training delays, telling the press, “The status of spring training is no change right now.”
He also expressed optimism that the regular season would start on time: “I’m an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular-season schedule.”
We’re at a crunch time in the negotiations, with the traditional start of spring training–the date pitchers and catchers report–set for next week, and the first full-roster workouts scheduled for Feb. 21. MLB teams have quietly dispatched supplies to spring-training camps–no full-fledged Truck Days this year–and venue operators are still planning on a normal spring training. Because of this preparation, it would take a week or so to begin spring training once any deal is potentially reached, Manfred said. Minor league players are already present for mini-camp, with full squads set to report Feb. 21.
Speaking of the minor leaguers: Manfred told the press minor league players would not be filling in for major leaguers in spring training.
There’s still a lot up in the air, and our advice really hasn’t changed since December, when the lockout was imposed by MLB. Teams and ballpark operators are still prepping for spring training with the assumption that games will begin Feb. 25-26. Because there’s still some give on the calendar, you can still plan for spring training–but do so smartly. First, be sure to make as many parts of your plans are as refundable as possible. That means hotel and reservations that can be canceled at the last minute. That means not prepaying car and hotel reservations, even at a cheaper rate. And that means shopping for airfares with minimal impact fees for cancelations or changes. Second, try to plan a trip for the middle to end of March, in case spring training is delayed and February games are scrapped. And one important thing to note: ticket refunds will be available only for games canceled, not for those rescheduled. If the beginning of spring training is delayed, we will see games likely rescheduled, not canceled.