Baseball Is Back as Owners, Players Agree to New Labor Deal

Opening Day scheduled for April 7 after final details are resolved.

Major League Baseball is back in business after owners and players agreed to a new labor deal Thursday.

One day after MLB canceled the third and fourth series of the season, pushing the earliest resumption of play to April 14, the two sides put aside one hang-up and hammered out the minor differences in other unresolved issues, including the competitive-balance tax and yearly minimum salary.

The 30 player reps — one for each team — and the eight-member MLB Players Association executive committee voted 26-12 to accept the new five-year collective bargaining agreement. Multiple reports said the executive committee voted unanimously against the deal. The owners later voted 30-0 to accept the deal they proposed to players.

MLB’s work stoppage began December 2 with the owners locking out the players and lasted 99 days. It was the first stoppage since the players went on strike in the 1994 season, resulting in the cancellation of that year’s World Series and lost games in the 1995 season.


New Opening Day


The regular season was originally set to begin March 31, but negotiations never really got serious until spring training games were canceled and Opening Day was threatened.

Now, Opening Day is April 7, with spring training games starting as soon as St. Patrick’s Day. Mandatory report dates for spring training camps will be Sunday, with exceptions made for players with visa issues. A full 162-game schedule will be played, with full pay and service team for players.

To make up the games lost — which is really only two series — doubleheaders will be played and one series will be tacked on to the end of the regular season. All doubleheaders are the traditional nine-inning variety after being seven innings the last two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That also means the newly agreed upon expanded postseason might start later than originally planned.

But of course, this also means a free-agent frenzy unlike anything MLB has seen in recent decades. According to multiple reports, negotiations between teams and agents were expected to begin Thursday night, with signings and trades able to be formalized soon.


International Draft on Hold


The issue that held up a new labor deal Wednesday was the international draft. An international draft is of particular concern to Latin players as they want to ensure the process is above board and won’t take advantage of draft-eligible prospects.

Owners and players discussed the possibility of an international draft tied to the qualifying offer and related draft-pick compensation after games were canceled Wednesday. On Thursday, the two sides decided to table the issue to focus on the other items that could get a new CBA done.

Both parties will continue to negotiate the specifics of an international draft, with a July 25 deadline to come to an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the qualifying offer and draft-pick compensation will remain this offseason.

The earliest an international draft could occur is 2024.


Details of the Deal


So, what else has changed in the new CBA?

Competitive Balance Tax: One of the biggest sticking points in negotiations, the competitive-balance tax kicks in at $230 million after being at $210 million in 2021 and will rise from there.

Minimum salary: The minimum salary will increase from $570,500 in 2021 to $700,000 in 2022. For each of the remaining years of this CBA, the minimum salary will increase $20,000.

Money Matters

Prearbitration bonus pool: A new pool for players not yet eligible for arbitration — primarily those in their first three seasons — was set at $50 million. Based on a variety of components, including WAR and postseason honors, would be distributed to eligible players.

Universal DH: All 30 teams will be using the DH in every game. How that affects Los Angeles Angels two-way star and reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani’s ability to bat during starting pitching assignments is unknown.

Expanded postseason: There will be 12 teams in the playoffs beginning this season, up from 10. Each league will have six teams battling for the pennant, with the top two in the AL and NL receiving byes and the wild-card rounds being best-of-three series. Also, there will not be tiebreaker games. Instead, ties after 162 games will be broken NFL-style. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, there were 16 teams in the postseason and reverted to 10 in 2021.

Rule 5 Draft: There is no Rule 5 Draft this year as minor-leaguers are already in camp and start their season about the same time as MLB’s new Opening Day.

Amateur draft: The typical draft of high school and college players will be limited to 20 rounds. The draft had been 40 rounds, but was cut to five rounds in 2020 and 20 in 2021 by MLB due to the pandemic. Also, there will be a six-team draft lottery.

In-season options: Teams will only be able to option a player to the minors five teams in one season. Previously, this was unlimited. This type of option is different than the three options a player has for his career. That remains at three.

Future rule changes: A new 11-member Joint Competition Committee will decide on new rules, including a pitch clock, larger bases and banning the shift. Rules can be implemented with a 45-day notice before a season begins.


Photos by Frank Jansky & Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter and Threads @DrummerWrites.

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