Can MLB players play in Japan or Korea during lockout? Overseas leagues may provide playing option

Bryce Harper: Giant?

Well, Yomiuri Giant.

MLB’s lockout is still in place and the owners and players don’t seem much closer to a deal than when the two sides initially started talking after the 2021 season, much to the chagrin of players and fans everywhere.

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Harper, the reigning NL MVP, made some waves on Monday when he shared an image of himself in a Yomiuri Giants uniform, the threads of the famed Japanese NPB franchise.

That led to some thinking: Can MLB players play overseas or in other leagues while the two sides settle their CBA issues?

It’s fairly simple.

Can MLB players play in Japan during lockout?

Simply put, yes: Players can, in fact, play for other leagues while they are locked out.

Considering a lockout is league-imposed as opposed to players actively striking, MLB wouldn’t have much of a chance to stop players from playing (and collecting a check) elsewhere.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal shared a snippet from the work stoppage guide given to agents prior to the start of the lockout:

“YES. The PA (Players Association) would challenge any attempts by MLB to interfere with Players who choose to participate in a foreign league during a lockout. During the 2004-05 work stoppage, a large number of NHL Players chose to play internationally.

During the 2004-05 NHL lockout – which cost the NHL the entirety of that season – 388 players played in international leagues while they could not play for their NHL squads.

To that end, Harper made it clear that he may be opening to taking a plane overseas to help the Yomiuri Giants (at least, in jest):

Any team that would pick up Harper would likely sign him to a contract that would pay him until it was time for him to rejoin the Phillies when playing in MLB resumes.

There are limitations for certain leagues and teams, however. Some rules indicate how many foreign players a team may have on their roster:

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Obviously, there are risks to a player playing in Japan (or in a league other than MLB) – chiefly, the threat of potential injury.

In any case, if players want to pack up their stuff and get some swings in while the owners and the union settle their differences, all they have to do is buy a plane ticket.

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