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Even more thoughts about the new MLB/MLBPA collective bargaining agreement

There’s a lot to digest here.

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Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

MLB and the MLBPA reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement eight days ago.

Since then, I’ve written several articles on what the deal contains and my thoughts on it and various changes brought by the agreement — here, here, here, here, here and here.

Evan Drellich of The Athletic wrote an article the other day that sums up all the changes MLB will see this year and beyond from the new CBA, and so I thought I’d post a few of those that I hadn’t noted in the six previous articles here, and my thoughts about them. Here goes!

The Draft

The draft lottery starts in 2023. All teams that did not make the prior year’s postseason can participate in the lottery, which covers the first six picks in the draft. A team’s odds of winning the lottery are based on the prior year’s win percentage, with the worst winning percentage given the best odds. If teams have identical win percentages, the tiebreaker is the previous year’s record. The lottery is to be held between the end of the season and Dec. 31. The commissioner’s office chooses the date.

COMMENT: The key here is that 18 of the 30 teams will be in the lottery. That means that a slightly-over-.500 team that misses the postseason could wind up with the No. 1 pick. You might remember that happened in the NBA lottery a decade or so ago when a 33-49 Bulls team that had the eighth-worst record won the lottery and selected Derrick Rose. (Would have been better, of course, if Rose hadn’t been constantly injured.)

There’s one catch to the lottery:

No revenue sharing payee (a smaller-market team that receives revenue sharing money) can have a lottery pick three years in a row. No revenue sharing payor or market disqualified team (a larger-market team) can pick in the lottery two years in a row. The earliest those teams could pick would be 10th overall.

Last year the Cubs had the seventh-worst record. In this system such a team would have a 2.7 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

Player pension benefits

Owners will contribute $207 million per year to fund the benefit plan, up $5.1 million, or about 2.5 percent, from the 2017-21 contributions ($201.9 million). A minimum of $3.5 million per year in proceeds from the competitive balance tax are to be used to fund benefits for former players.

Per the MLBPA: “Prior to 1980, a Player’s pension rights did not vest until he earned 4 years of Major League Service. In April 2011, the MLBPA and MLB announced an agreement to provide annual payments, up to $10,000, to Players who did not “vest” in the Pension Plan between 1947-79. Over several agreements, the payments to inactive non-vested Players were extended through 2021. The new agreement will continue these payments for 2022 through 2026, and these payments will be increased by 15%.”

COMMENT: The quote from the MLBPA is important. There have been quite a few players from that 1947-79 period who lapsed into poverty due to medical or other issues, some related to their time in baseball. An author named Doug Gladstone wrote an entire book called “A Bitter Cup of Coffee” about this. I’m glad MLB is increasing payments to those players. Here’s a 2011 article by Gladstone that explains a bit more.

Betting

From the MLBPA memo: “For the first time in our collective bargaining history, the MLBPA negotiated a Sports Betting Policy that covers issues relating to Player safety (including Player families), investigatory due process, and commercial relationships with companies involved in legal sports betting. Under the new policies, all Clubs will be required to institute enhanced ballpark safety measures; a hotline will be developed for the purpose of reporting threats made against Players or their families relating to sports betting; and it shall be illegal for Major League Baseball and any Club to sell and/or license a Player’s confidential medical information, personal biometric data, or any non-public data used to evaluate Player performance in practices or training sessions. The Sports Betting policy recently negotiated will also enable Players to enter into sponsorship, marketing, and other commercial arrangements with Sports Betting companies (subject to various restrictions).”

COMMENT: The key here is the ballpark safety measures and the hotline. Threats such as the ones noted have already happened. Here’s hoping players and their families are kept safe. Owners are counting on gambling revenue as their next big money source, so they have to make this work properly.

International play

In each year of 2023 through 2026, there’s to be a game in Mexico City in May, and a game in London in June — except for 2025, when the London game is replaced by a Paris game.

In 2022, World Baseball Classic qualifiers are planned for September, with a separate tour of major league players in Korea and Taiwan after the regular season.

In 2023, the WBC is held in the spring, and a postseason tour is to be held in Latin America.

In 2024, games are to be held in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic during spring training, and an Opening Day game is to be held in Asia.

In 2025 and 2026, there’s a game in San Juan in September.

The WBC returns again in 2026.

COMMENT: I’ve already noted here that the Cubs will be heading to London in 2023 to face the Cardinals:

This article gives more details about each of the international series to be played during the term of this CBA, including the WBC. I’m a big fan of the WBC (and so is Josh Timmers) and so we’ll give coverage here to the qualifiers when they happen this fall and to the WBC itself next spring.

Retention bonuses

Previously, certain free agents had retention bonuses they had to be paid if a team held on to them late in spring training. That system is gone, but those players now have uniform opt-out dates: five days before Opening Day, May 1 and June 1.

COMMENT: This is actually important to the Cubs given the flurry of free-agent signings they’ve made over the last couple of days. If the retention bonus system is gone, this likely means that if the Cubs wind up cutting any of those players by five days before Opening Day, they might not owe those players anything. I’ll see if I can find out more about this as we go further into Spring Training.

Roster limits

There is a limit of 26 players from Opening Day through Aug. 31, and then 28 players are required from Sept. 1 to the end of the regular season. No more than 13 pitchers from Opening Day through Aug. 31, and 14 pitchers afterward. During the 2022 regular season, the league and union are to meet to discuss changing the pitcher limits (i.e., potentially dropping down to 13 and 12 from 14 and 13 in those time periods.)

Per the MLBPA, “any Player who is optioned to the minor leagues after the third day following Labor Day shall receive Major League service (but not Major League salary) for the duration of his optional assignment.”

COMMENT: There is, apparently, still a possibility that rosters this year could be increased to 28 for the first few weeks of the season due to the shortened Spring Training; that’s still being discussed. Important here is that owners and players will discuss making the rostered pitcher limit one less than it is now. That would presumably encourage teams to find starters who can go deeper into games, if they have fewer relievers available.

There’s a lot more in Drellich’s article and I recommend you read it to learn about many of the new ways the sport we love will be governed over the next five years. Some of them are subtle and won’t be noticed on the field; others will.

The bottom line, of course, is that baseball is back and, even though the schedule had to be shuffled around quite a bit, we’ll have a full 162-game season, and with full fan capacity for the first time since 2019.

Play ball!