We are just days away from the calendar turning over to February.  That means that pitchers and catchers are about ready to report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training.  Or are they?  The new/old Phillie Phanatic is surely ready.  For the first time since December 1's lockout of players by Major League Baseball, there appears to be real progress in negotiations, bringing optimism that Spring Training could start on time.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that after productive, in-person talks on Monday, the two sides are set to negotiate again Tuesday, with what Nightengale calls "optimism" that Spring Training could start on time.

The biggest news of the day seems to be confirmation of what is widely expected: a universal designated hitter:

The two sides have already all but officially agreed to a universal DH with the elimination of draft pick compensation that penalizes teams for signing premier free-agent players.

These two moves are beneficial for the players because the designated hitter position will open up 15 more starting players in the Major Leagues, and a player's free agency will not be devalued by having draft pick compensation attached.

Among the other issues at play:

  • How many teams will be in an expanded postseason.  Major League Baseball reportedly is looking for 14 teams to make the postseason.
  • When free agency will begin for players.
  • How to keep competitive balance.
  • Luxury Tax threshold: there is a likely increase coming but by how much?

While the Phillies have not announced an official report date for pitchers and catchers, it should come the week of February 13, which should immediately follow the latest-ever Super Bowl.

The Phillies are scheduled to open Grapefruit League play in Tampa against the New York Yankees on Saturday, February 26 before splitting the team with games on Sunday, February 27 in Clearwater at BayCare Ballpark against the Minnesota Twins and in Dunedin at TD Ballpark against the Toronto Blue Jays.

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