MLB, players' union reach deal to end lockout
MLB owners and players finally figured out Thursday how to split up more than $10 billion annually in a way that makes all involved happy enough, ending the second-longest work stoppage in baseball history after 99 days and salvaging a full season that will begin April 7.
The sides agreed to a new five-year labor contract, proposed by MLB, that included a variety of new rules and concepts: the designated hitter coming to the National League permanently, the playoffs expanding from 10 to 12 teams, lots of additional money for young major-leaguers, events in Paris, the Dominican Republic and other locations, and a so-called Steve Cohen Tax on the teams that spend significantly over the luxury-tax threshold.
Players can show up to camps Friday, and the mandatory reporting date for a shortened spring training is Sunday. Exhibition games will begin late next week.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes the new collective bargaining agreement is an "olive branch" with players, who largely do not like him. That dynamic was one reason the league and Players Association had pushed negotiations to the brink of making a 162-game season logistically impossible.
"One of the things that I’m supposed to do is promote a good relationship with our players," Manfred said during a news conference at MLB headquarters in Manhattan. "I’ve tried to do that. I have not been successful in that. It begins with small steps. It’s why I picked the phone up after the ratification and called [union executive director Tony Clark] and expressed my desire to work with them. It’s going to be a priority of mine."
The Mets will open the season against the Nationals in Washington, with their home opener set for April 15 against the Diamondbacks. The Yankees will start in the Bronx against the Red Sox.
Ultimately, the owners’ decision to lock out the players on Dec. 2 upon the expiration of the previous CBA cost them plenty of agita and maybe some public goodwill — but zero games. Although MLB previously said it canceled about two weeks of the schedule, all missed games will be made up via doubleheaders, games on would-be off days and an extra series tacked on to the end of the season, which will run through about Oct. 5.
Clark hailed the union’s "significant progress," which will "improve not just current players’ rights and benefits but those of generations to come."
"Players remained engaged and unified from beginning to end, and in the process re-energized our fraternity," he said in a statement.
Manfred added: "I’ve never been surprised at the solidarity of the MLBPA. It may be one of the best unions in America."
Manfred said "maybe [the] most important" piece of the CBA was MLB’s newfound ability to implement on-field rule changes after giving the players 45 days of notice. Those rules will need to be approved by a committee composed of six league appointees, four active players and one umpire.
Additionally, starting in 2023, the schedule will be more balanced and less division-heavy. Every team will play all 29 other teams each year.
Among the financial details are a luxury-tax system that has a new fourth tier of penalties, targeting the highest-spending clubs such as Cohen’s Mets, at $60 million over the initial tax mark. That 80% surcharge will start at $290 million — a number the Mets feasibly could hit — in 2022.
The luxury tax, formally called the competitive-balance tax, will begin at $230 million in 2022, climbing to $244 million in 2026.
The minimum salary will be $700,000 this year and rise incrementally to $780,000 in 2026. There also is an annual $50 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players, a new idea and big win for the union.
On non-money topics, MLB and the Players Association agreed to stage games or "tours," a source said, in Paris, London, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Asia and Puerto Rico over the next five years. And the top six draft picks will be decided by a lottery.
Thursday’s resolution came after a breakthrough earlier in the day on the primary hangup from Wednesday: The league’s desire for an international draft and its tying of that concept to the dropping the draft-pick compensation system for free agents.
They decided to decide later. The parties gave themselves until July 25 to agree to an international draft, which MLB wants to start in 2024. If that is implemented, the draft-pick compensation will go away starting next offseason. If they don’t find common ground on the international draft, the draft-pick compensation will remain.
Manfred said the lockout — which trailed only the 232-day players’ strike in 1994-95 in length of baseball work stoppages — accomplished what he wanted.
"Once it became clear we couldn’t make an agreement prior to expiration [of the previous CBA], I do believe the lockout helped move the process along," he said. "If we had just slid into the season, started the season without the lockout, I don’t think we’d have an agreement today."