When Taylor Rogers took over as the Twins’ Major League Baseball Players Association representative before last season, the Twins’ reliever could have had no way to guess how much the job would entail over the next two years.

“I think I’m done. I’m done after this,” Rogers said with a laugh. “After this CBA’s done, I’m done.”

Last year, Rogers was thrown straight into duty as the team’s rep when the league and MLBPA engaged in discussions over the length of the COVID-shortened season and health and safety protocols. Ultimately, after the two sides could not come to an agreement, Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season.

This year, an even more difficult task lies ahead: The sport’s CBA expires on Dec. 1 and the league and players association must come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement to govern the sport.

And as a result, the baseball world faces plenty of uncertainty this offseason.

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“I think it’ll be pretty dark until the World Series ends, I’m assuming,” Rogers said late last month. “It’s been dark for almost a month or so, so I really don’t know, and this is my first CBA as a rep, so who knows what it could bring?”

Issues at hand

Major League Baseball has not had a work stoppage since the 1994 season when a player strike began in August with owners insisting on a salary cap and didn’t end until the next April, wiping out the entire postseason.

While the two sides have reached agreements since then — most recently in 2016 — this one isn’t expected to come as smoothly, as the relationship between the two sides has become increasingly strained over the years.

“Our No. 1 priority is to get a new agreement without a work stoppage,” Manfred said in July while meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America ahead of the All-Star Game. “It’s that simple.”

But actually coming to agreement won’t be that simple.

“I don’t think it’s going to be done at the deadline by any means, but I think for everyone’s sake that it gets done quicker than ending in March or something like that,” Twins reliever Tyler Duffey said. “I just hope everyone realizes that we’ve got a good thing going and it’s good for all of us ultimately to get it done.”

Player compensation will, of course, be at the heart of the conversations — per a report from The Athletic in August, MLB’s first proposal included a salary floor, which does not currently exist, and a lower luxury-tax tier, which is sure to be unpopular with the MLBPA.

Service time, which players contend is in some cases being manipulated to gain another year of team control and keep a player’s salary down, will be an important topic, as will the arbitration system. Other issues like the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs are expected to be touched on, too.

“I think to me, the number of years it takes to (get to) free agency is probably a big number. … It takes a lot of time for guys to make it to free agency,” veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson said when asked about the important issues to him. “ … Or if it’s not that, maybe it’s trying to get to arbitration earlier. Maybe if it’s once you get to two years versus being the super-two versus going to three to four seasons to make it to your first year of arbitration, which is difficult now. I think there’s a few things that are really big issues we’re discussing.”

Rogers, the Twins’ union rep, said he had spoken often with Donaldson throughout the process, as well as catcher Mitch Garver, who is the Twins’ assistant player rep.

Garver, who like Rogers and Duffey are among the Twins who are arbitration-eligible this offseason, would like to see changes to that process.

“From a personal level, we don’t really know how arbitration is going to work, if they’re going to come up with a formula or if they’re going to keep it as is,” Garver said last month. “It’s a broken system. We know that. It’s kind of hard to tell. Everything’s kind of up in the air right now. We don’t even know if we’re going to start on time.”

While there are plenty of items up for discussion, Duffey said he was hopeful that after the two sides talked through some issues last year, like the universal designated hitter and the expanded playoffs — both of which were implemented for the COVID-shortened season but not in 2021 — that it might be easier work through the list of items this year as a result.

“I think for our side, it’s like, look, everybody just wants to be on the same page and play a game that we all love, and you assume the owners love the game, too, and want to put their best product out there,” Duffey said. “I think at the end of the day, that’s all anyone wants is everybody who should be getting an opportunity to get an opportunity and get rewarded for that.”

Plan as normal

Derek Falvey isn’t sure what to expect. He’s hardly alone — no one does — but it does make his task of team building infinitely more difficult.

With no control in the situation, the Twins’ president of baseball operations is planning on approaching the offseason the same way he normally would, and then reacting as necessary.

That means lining up the players who are available in free agency, lining up the ones who could be potential trade targets and doing the necessary groundwork the front office would put in in a normal offseason.

While movement in the offseason has been slow in recent years, it’s possible that it’s even slower this year as free agents wait for the CBA process to conclude before signing a deal.

“Hopefully in some cases if we feel players are a priority and we get some conversations going with them, maybe there is a path there,” Falvey said last month. “But I can also see a path where it may be a little slower than normal just because uncertainty tends to breed a little bit of ‘why don’t we wait and see what happens’ a bit. That’s my gut reaction but I don’t have any reason to believe one way or the other right now.”

Before the Twins parted ways for the season, manager Rocco Baldelli said they had to prepare for all possibilities, especially if there winds up being a situation where communication between teams and players halts.

That means having everything mapped out beforehand so players are confident in what they need to do to prepare for the season, regardless of what happens with the CBA, regardless of when it may start.

After a 2020 season like no other, the sport may be heading into a 2021 offseason like few others.

“It’s really hard to know what’s coming,” Baldelli said. “We have to prepare for the scenario of no work stoppage and we make sure everyone is fully prepared and ready to go for spring training. We have to prepare for, I don’t know if there are different versions of a work stoppage, but we have to prepare for those. And the one thing we have to do is just be prepared that if there is one, that our players are fully prepared for their offseasons and have their plans set.”