clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB Owners, Players Reach Tentative Labor Deal

This is good news for everyone.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Major League Baseball will continue with five more years of labor peace, through 2021, after marathon bargaining sessions over the last few days resulted in a tentative deal between owners and players on a new collective-bargaining agreement. The deal still has to be voted on, though that’s expected to be a formality, and details fleshed out.

Some of the details already announced, via the Jayson Stark article at linked above:

Although owners pushed for months to include international players in the amateur draft, they dropped that demand this week, sources said. In its place, teams would work under a revised system of bonus pools that would place a hard cap on how much each club can spend to sign foreign-born players.

The regular season will lengthen from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days during the regular season. The sides also have discussed scheduling more day games when teams face long flights following those games.

The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, then to $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, then to $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

Regarding the lengthening of the season, which will likely mean the shortening of spring training and having the regular season almost certainly start in late March, this could cause another set of issues with cold or wet weather in certain cities. They’ll have to be careful how they schedule those early-season games. In addition, there are also reportedly provisions in the new deal for scheduling more day games on getaway days, which will help reduce player fatigue from long flights.

There are also going to be changes in the luxury-tax threshold, which will begin by increasing from $189 million in 2016 to $195 million in 2017. And draft-pick compensation for losing free agents will change:

Teams that sign a premium free agent will no longer have to give up a first-round draft pick to the team that lost that player. However, teams with payrolls higher than the luxury-tax threshold would still lose a pick later in the draft. And teams losing those players still would receive a pick.

A few other important things, also from Stark:

Expanded rosters had been something that was expected to be part of this agreement, so it surprises me that the two sides didn’t get this done. Thus we’ll still likely see the same sorts of roster expansions after September 1 and huge bullpens after that date.

Here’s an important change I know many of us here have wanted for years:

The league that wins Major League Baseball's All-Star Game no longer will get home-field advantage in the World Series, which instead will go to the pennant winner with the better regular-season record.

Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will return the All-Star Game to the purpose it should have always had: a fun, exhibition-game showcase for the game’s best players. The Cubs, of course, would have had home field in the World Series just completed if this rule had been in place for 2016. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have had Kyle Schwarber available for Game 7 if that had been the case. On the other, other hand, the Cubs won the World Series anyway. Still, this is a welcome change for the game’s premier event going forward, the fairest way to do it. I’m very happy this got done.

Interesting sidebar to “This Time It Counts” leaving the scene forever: In the 14 years this rule was in effect, the team with the better record wound up having home field anyway 10 times. The team with the worse regular-season record had home field advantage in 2004 (the Red Sox won), 2011 (the Cardinals won) and 2016 (the Indians lost). In 2013 the World Series teams, the Red Sox and Cardinals, had identical 97-65 records. Those teams didn’t play each other that year. The new deal will have to have some reasonable way of breaking such a tie. (The league winning interleague play, perhaps?)

That link also contains this nugget:

In addition, players and management agreed that the minimum stay on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

In practice, this might mean more players going on the DL with minor injuries that wouldn’t necessarily put them out for 15 days, but they might be ready to come back within 10. It will mean teams will have to have more MLB-ready players in their minor-league systems who can fill in for that 10-day period. One other thing of note in that article:

An international play plan is part of the new agreement that includes a payment schedule for potential games in Asia, Mexico, Latin America and Britain, in addition to U.S.-based special events, such as this year's July 3 game between Atlanta and Miami in a specially built ballpark on a military base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

I’ve long been in favor of international games, as a means to promote baseball worldwide. There had been a push to play regular-season games in London in 2017, but that never came to fruition. I hope they wind up scheduling some of these over the course of the new labor agreement, no matter which country they choose.

It’ll be a while before we see the effects of this deal across baseball as a whole. In regard to the free-agent compensation system, I have to assume it doesn’t affect this year’s free-agent class, since those players received free agency under the old rules (for example, Dexter Fowler would still be subject to the old qualifying-offer rule, which appears to be scrapped under the new deal). In general this appears to be a good deal for both owners and players, who clearly recognized that they are all making a great deal of money and had strong incentives to keep baseball going the way it has been. By the end of this contract MLB will have had 26 consecutive years of labor peace (even though they went down to the wire in 2002, there was no work stoppage), far longer than any other North American sports league.

Well done, everyone. Now let the Winter Meetings commence!