On Day 99 of the Major League Baseball-imposed lockout, the league and the MLB Players Association finally came to an agreement (and, many would say, their senses) and agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement.
That's a fancy way of saying we finally get to watch big league ball again.
The full details are still trickling in, but here are the major points that they came to an agreement on:
Opening Day is now April 7, about a week later than scheduled, and even though MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was canceling games when a Feb. 28 deadline passed, there will be a full 162-game season. Teams will play doubleheaders to make up for the loss of that first week. If they stick to the original schedule, it means the Padres would start the season in Arizona with a fpur-game series against the Diamondbacks, then play three in San Francisco ... with their home opener on April 14 against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
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Spring training at facilities in Arizona and Florida can open as soon as Friday, and players must report to camp by March 13. Spring training games begin March 17, just in time for the iconic green St. Patrick's Day hats.
The Competitive Balance Tax, one of the most hotly contested topics during negotiations, will start at $230 million for 2022, an increase of about $20 million over 2021. Over the course of the five-year agreement, it will expand to $244 million. The players were asking for higher increases, but this is pretty much in the middle of the numbers they wanted and where the owners were digging in.
Minimum salaries will be increasing from close to $580,000 to $700,000 starting in 2022, and increasing by $20,000 increments each year through 2026. There will also be a $50 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players who outperform their minimum contracts. That money will be divvied between the Top 100 players, based on statistical performance (Padres All-Star Jake Cronenworth is a poster child for players deserving of more than they earn early in their careers).
The playoffs will expand to 12 teams starting this season, adding one more wild card team per league, and the National League will, in fact, have a designated hitter.
The new CBA was first ratified by the players and then unanimously by the league so the business of the game can begin again, meaning an avalanche of free agent signings and potentially a few trades are expected soon.
In order to avoid tanking, there will now be an MLB Draft Lottery for the 18 teams that do not make the playoffs. The top six positions will be determined via lottery, much like the NBA does. The hope here is to dissuade teams from trying to be as bad as possible to get the highest draft positions.
Another interesting part of this is potential rules changes. Although nothing is expected for 2022, starting next year a joint committee of active players, MLB appointees and an umpire will work together to look at several innovations, including larger bases, length of a pitch clock and even a robotic strike zone.
There is still some unfinished business for the two sides to work through. One of the sticking points is an international amateur draft, something the owners are pushing for and the players do not want. Instead of allowing it to impact any more of the season, they've agreed to keep talking about it and try to get an agreement done sometime in the middle of the regular season.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available -- Ed.
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