We’ve finally made it — the 2022 baseball season appears on track to start at last. MLB and the players’ union have come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement after nearly 100 days of the sport being frozen under a lockout. The final deal, which was proposed by MLB and approved by the player base despite the executive committee voting unanimously against it (as well as the Yankees), will need to be ratified, but that is expected to go through without issue at 6pm. Yankees baseball is back on the schedule, and will kick things off April 7th against the Red Sox.
It was a bitter battle for this CBA to be finalized, but for once reports of growing optimism weren’t misplaced. The two sides were deeply far apart for most of the lockout, and the owners appeared unwilling to budge for the majority of the discussions. Things changed as MLB’s attempts to institute arbitrary deadlines for regular season games to be played to completion were met and passed without incident, and soon enough the numbers started to get within reasonable disagreement on key issues like the competitive balance tax. Other issues popped up seemingly overnight, such as the recent push on the international draft and today’s discussion on dropping recent lawsuits against the league, but in the end a deal was forged.
Here are the details on when Opening Day and the start of spring training will come around, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand:
As I just reported on @MLBNetwork, should the CBA be agreed upon and ratified today, Opening Day would likely be April 7. Spring Training games would begin March 17 or 18, and free agency and the business of baseball would be open TONIGHT.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) March 10, 2022
Teams will expect players to report by March 13th, though there will be flexibility for players working out visa issues after no contact with their organizations since December 2nd. The games originally planned between March 31st through April 6th will be made up as parts of full doubleheaders or on off-days, and another series will be tacked on to the end of the regular season. The Yankees will open up on April 7th at home against the Red Sox.
So, what did we end up with after all of that talk? On the core issues, MLB proposed a luxury tax that will begin at $230 million and scale up to $244 million by the end of the CBA (a five-year period), a $50 million pre-arbitration pool for players who overperform on their rookie contracts, new service time bonuses for top rookies, and minimum salaries of $700,000-$780,000 (Triple-A players on 40-man rosters will see increases, too). The designated hitter will become universal across the league, and we will no longer have to look out for seven-inning doubleheaders or runners starting on second base in extra innings.
There will also be postseason expansion this season as the league expands to 12 teams competing for the World Series, while the bottom six teams in the league will enter a lottery for the draft. The first round of the playoffs will be a best-of-three Wild Card Series, and the top two division winners in each league will get byes. There will be no reseeding after the first round. Additionally, Game 163 tiebreakers like the one that catapulted Bucky Dent to fame in 1978 are sadly no more; ties will be settled through formulas like in the NFL.
As for the international draft, the two sides agreed to punt that issue down the line a bit, putting a July 25th deadline for a draft to be formed that would begin in 2024, and would come with the removal of qualifying offers for free agents. If the draft is not agreed to in the end, then the qualifying offer will remain. The union also agreed to drop one of the grievances MLB requested, their 2020 COVID case, but did not drop the suit against revenue-sharing abuse from teams like the Rays, Pirates, Marlins, and Athletics. Additionally, the Rule 5 Draft, usually held over the offseason, will be cancelled this time around.
MLB will also have the ability to implement changes with 45 days’ note, as noted by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich:
MLB can implement rule changes now with a 45-day notice — meaning, in a single offseason — rather than the prior one year’s notice. There will be a committee to discuss rules w/6 league appointees, 4 player appointees, and 1 umpire. (League has more votes, so, MLB has the power.)— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 10, 2022
Now the owners will convene to ratify the deal at 6:00 p.m. EST tonight. Immediately after that decision, free agency will open back up, and a flurry of deals are expected to come with hundreds of players still in need of a home for 2022. There are still some marquee players available, and Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman headline that list. It will be interesting to watch how fast the market develops, and whether there will be significant trades following them.