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MLB lockout ends: Players and owners come to new CBA agreement

By Riley Stovka, March 22 2022—

After a four-month work stoppage, Major League Baseball owners and Players Association came to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that is set to take effect for the 2022-2026 seasons. 

The Players Association voted 26-12 to approve the new proposal. The owners ratified the new CBA with a 30-0 vote in favour. It is quite notable, however, the union’s executive subcommittee, voted 8-0 against the new proposal. 

Baseball business kicked off immediately after the agreement was ratified with a frenzy of signings and trades. Players under contract must now report to their big league camps, with the season slotted to open on April 7. 

Considering the contentious state of the negotiations during the owner-imposed lockout, it’s quite miraculous that all 162 games will be played this season, after the owners set a deadline for a new agreement on Feb. 28. If the deadline was not met, the first two weeks of the regular season would be canceled.

Of course as the deadline was self-imposed and completely flexible it really had no meaning. Both sides continued to miss owner-imposed deadline after owner-imposed deadline before a new deal was squeaked out at the 11th hour. And now the league will push back spring training by a couple weeks and allow the season to be played with a full 162. 

Some notable reported details came out of this new CBA including:

  • A new postseason format featuring 12 teams instead of the normal 10
  • Minimum salary increased to $700,000, going up to $780,000 in the final year of the agreement 
  • A Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold, which taxes teams for spending over pre-established limits, is set at $230 million in 2023 and peaks at $244 million in the agreement’s final year.
  • A new competitive balance tax threshold penalty tiers that would affect any team spending over the threshold — penalties begin at excession of $60 million.
  • A collection of new gameplay rules: inclusion of a pitch clock, larger bases and banning of the defensive shift, which all will take effect in the 2023 season.

Throughout the negotiations, the union sought to raise the minimum salary and the CBT threshold, which would allow top earning teams to spend more money in free agency and on player’s salaries in general. They also wished to implement measures meant to curb tanking, although in that regard, they were less successful. 

The owners prioritized an expanded playoffs and an international draft, while aso wishing to implement game play changes like a pitch clock and the banning of the defensive shift. 

In the end, both sides got what they wanted while also leaving more to be desired. Players didn’t make any remarkable steps in stopping teams from tanking, but they did incentivise more teams to spend money on players. The owners got the expanded playoffs they desired so much but could not reach an agreement on an international draft, which would allow them to acquire more controllable assets. 

As it stands, international amatuer players are free game. Teams have a set pool of money, the value of which is dependent on their spending total. The union believes that the implementation of a formal draft would hurt amatuer players’ ability to control their own destiny, although American amatuer players are subject to a formal draft, so that reasoning isn’t particularly sound. 

Both sides agreed to continue discussing the international draft, with a “deadline” scheduled for July. If an agreement is met, draft pick compensation — a process designed to allow certain teams a first crack at keeping their drafted players — will be thrown out the window. If an agreement is not met, the process will stay unchanged. 

This lockout has been anything but straightforward and simple but what has been so — at least as far as I can tell — are these details, of which should be the big takeaways from this new CBA. More money has now been allocated for younger players (union win). It’s now a 12-team post-season (owners win). 

For the fans though, this is a huge victory. There will be baseball played in 2022.

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