Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association reportedly agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday night, a little more than three hours before the old one was set to expire, meaning there will no lockout.
And now, for the significant number of teams that had been waiting for a new CBA before diving into free agency, including the Yankees, their offseasons can begin in earnest.
FOX Sports first reported news of the agreement, which is for five years. It means the sport’s streak of unprecedented labor peace will continue as there has not been a work stoppage since the ruinous strike of 1994.
Among the last hurdle the sides had to clear in reaching an agreement was on a new luxury tax threshold — the primary issue big-money teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox were waiting on. The threshold will increase from its current $189 million to $195 million in the first year of the deal, increasing to $197 million, $206 million, $209 million and $210 million thereafter, according to FOX.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has not been shy in recent years in publicly declaring his desire to get the Yankees’ payroll under the threshold to lower his club’s luxury tax rate, which is currently at 50 percent.
There will be a new penalty for signing certain free agents that could affect a team’s draft order. There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on. Management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada but did get a hard cap on each team’s annual bonus pool for those players.
The Yankees’ offseason priorities are bolstering their rotation and bullpen, as well as picking up a bat after dealing Brian McCann to the Astros. Veteran Carlos Beltran, dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline, is among those who have been discussed, as has Mike Napoli.
Aroldis Chapman is the club’s primary target, and the former Yankees closer expressed to friends an interest in returning to the Bronx almost as soon as he was dealt to the Cubs in July, though it remains to be seen just how much the Yankees are willing to spend on him. Chapman is the top closer on the market — the Dodgers are among those pursuing the hard-throwing lefty — with more than a few in the industry predicting he could land a contract in the neighborhood of $100 million.
The Yankees have been in touch with Chapman’s agents and have also touched base with agents for the other high-profile closers on the market, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, a Yankees draft pick in 2006 who came up through the organization.
The free-agent starting pitching market is extremely weak and the Yankees have done their due diligence early this offseason on lefthanders such as Rich Hill and Derek Holland.
— With AP