Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday, paving the way for the 2022 regular season to begin on April 7.
The CBA must still be ratified by the owners before it becomes official, with a vote scheduled for early Thursday evening. If it is ratified, both sides must then sign a memorandum of understanding, officially bringing the three-month lockout to a close.
The mandatory Spring Training report date for all clubs is Sunday. Exhibition games will begin on March 17 or 18.
The deal came to fruition a day after MLB postponed Opening Day until April 14 in the absence of a new agreement and announced that each team’s first four series were removed from the schedule. However, as part of this agreement, a full 162-game schedule will be played, and the four series that were previously removed from the calendar will be rescheduled.
The new five-year CBA includes increased minimum salaries, a new pre-arbitration bonus pool to reward the top young players in the game, a raise in competitive balance tax thresholds, the introduction of a universal designated hitter, the widest-ranging Draft lottery in pro sports, a system to prevent alleged service-time manipulation and limits on the number of times a player can be optioned in a season to address concerns regarding “roster churn.”
The deal also includes an expanded 12-team postseason format, bringing playoff baseball to two additional markets each year.
As part of the agreement, a Joint Competition Committee will be formed comprised of four active players, six members appointed by MLB and one umpire. Beginning in 2023, the committee will be tasked with adopting changes to playing rules such as a pitch clock, base size, defensive positioning and automatic ball/strike zone.
Under the previous agreement, MLB had the right to unilaterally implement rule changes with a one-year notice, but the new system will allow the game to improve in a more timely fashion thanks to the collaboration between the league and players.
Once the CBA is finalized, teams around the league will turn their attention to completing their offseason business, as more than 200 players remain on the free-agent market, including notable names such as Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant and Trevor Story.
Here are some of the details of the agreement between MLB and the MLBPA:
• The first-year increase is the largest single-year increase in history, nearly five times larger than the $27,500 increase in the first year of the prior CBA. It also represents a larger increase than the total from the past 10 years.
Competitive Balance Tax threshold
2022: $230 million
2023: $233 million
2024: $237 million
2025: $241 million
2026: $244 million
• The $20 million increase from 2021 to ’22 is nearly twice as large as the biggest previous first-year increase.
• A fourth tax level has been added at $60 million above the base threshold to address runaway spending.
Pre-arbitration bonus pool
• $50 million (to be distributed to the top 100 players based on awards and statistical performance).
• MLB and the MLBPA will jointly develop a statistical method to allocate the funds.
• Under this system, NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes would have seen his salary jump from $608,000 to $4.2 million last season, while Rookie of the Year winners Randy Arozarena and Jonathan India would have seen their respective salaries more than triple in 2021.
• Top 6 selections will be awarded via lottery.
• Odds would be based on the reverse order of winning percentage, with the bottom three clubs each at 16.5%.
• The 18 non-postseason clubs would be eligible, though revenue sharing payees would be ineligible to receive lottery selections in three consecutive years, while non-payees would be ineligible to receive lottery selections in consecutive years.
• In exchange for agreeing to an International Draft by July 25, 2022, MLB will eliminate the qualifying offer system (direct Draft-pick compensation) for free agents.
• International Draft would be 20 rounds (600-plus selections), increasing the total compensation earned by amateurs by more than $20 million annually.
• Signing bonuses would be guaranteed for drafted players.
• Clubs who select players from growth countries (countries with less than 0.5% of signings in the previous three signing periods) will receive additional selections to incentivize scouting and signing in emerging markets.
Beginning in 2023, a committee comprised of four active players, six members appointed by MLB and one umpire, will be tasked with adopting changes to playing rules such as a pitch clock, base size, defensive positioning and automatic ball/strike zone.
• Contracts for arbitration-eligible players will be guaranteed.
• Top prospects who finish 1st or 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting will receive a full year of service.
• Clubs promoting top prospects to Opening Day rosters will be eligible to receive Draft picks if the player finishes in the Top 3 in the Rookie of the Year voting or Top 5 in MVP/Cy Young voting.
• Expanded postseason: 12 teams, with the top two division winners receiving a bye.
• Universal designated hitter.
• Players may only be optioned five times per season.