We Have a CBA Deal, and a 162-Game Season!

Patrick Breen-USA TODAY

And on the 99th day of the owners’ lockout, shortly after the umpteenth deadline set by commissioner Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association finally reached a deal on a new Collective Bargaining agreement, just in time to preserve a 162-game schedule. Players will report to camps by March 13 (except for those with visa issues); arbitration figures will be exchanged on March 22, with hearings taking place during the season; Opening Day is set for April 7; the regular season will be extended by three days to absorb one of the two previously canceled series, with nine-inning doubleheaders and off days used as a means of absorbing the other; and players will receive full pay and service time. We’re a long, long ways from all being right with the world, or even within the baseball industry, but yes, there will be a 2022 major league season.

Two days of close-but-no-cigar negotiations had the two sides drawing closer on core economic issues, but MLB’s insistence upon pairing the creation of an international draft with the ending of the qualifying offer system (aka direct draft pick compensation) set things back on Wednesday. Manfred responded by postponing (but notably not officially cancelling) another week of games, and the league stopped short of delivering a full counterproposal in the late afternoon, instead presenting the union with three options. Via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers:

[1] “Sign the CBA, including eliminating draft pick compensation [the qualifying offer system], and take some time to examine the international draft. If the union won’t implement within a couple years (by ’24?), the league can re-open the CBA.

[2] “Do the entire package without the draft which means without draft pick compensation.”

[3] “Take the original deal. League gets the international draft and draft pick compensation is eliminated.”

The union rejected the premise but made a counterproposal to remove the qualifying offer this year, contingent upon the two sides studying the parameters of the international draft further and setting a deadline to reach agreement or return to the status quo of qualifying offer and no draft. The union proposed November 15 for the date, but mere minutes after my morning update went live, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported that the two sides had agreed to a July 25 deadline instead. After a bit more back and forth on the numbers, the proposal was put to a vote, but while the union’s executive subcommittee unanimously voted against the proposal (8–0), the 30 team representatives who round out its executive board voted 26–4 in favor of it, with the Mets, Yankees, Astros and Cardinals dissenting. The owners ratified the agreement shortly after 6 pm ET by a unanimous 30–0 vote, and the lockout officially lifted just after 7 pm ET.

As for the details, not all of them are immediately clear, nor have all of them been fully reported. Here’s what we know so far.

Playoff Structure

The postseason will include 12 teams, with the top two division winners in each league getting byes, and the other eight teams playing best-of-three series (yuck). There will be no ghost-win to give the higher seed an advantage. According to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, there will be no re-seeding after the first round, so the No. 1 seed will play the winner of the Wild Card series between seeds Nos. 4 and 5, and the No. 2 seed will play the winner of the Nos. 3–6 series.

Alas, all of this means that the single-game Wild Card format is history, and, in an additional blow against Team Entropy, so are Game 163 tiebreakers, with Stark reporting, “All playoff spots will be determined through NFL-type tiebreaker formulas.” To these eyes, the excitement of those win-or-go-home games, and the penalty they imposed upon a team in the next round by requiring the expenditure of a top starting pitcher, worked out well as a way to prioritize winning the division, and to kicking off the postseason with some instant thrills and chills.

Minimum Salary

The major league minimum salary will jump to $700,000 in 2022, up from $570,500, a 22.7% gain; it’s the largest one-year jump ever in the minimum in terms of total dollars, and the largest on a percentage basis since 2003, when it rose by 50% (from $200,000 to $300,000). The minimum will increase by $20,000 per year — the largest intra-CBA annual increases in this millennium — to $780,000 in 2026, for a five-year gain of 36.7%.

MLB Minimum Salaries
Year Minimum ($K) Annual Change
2012 $480.0 15.9%
2013 $490.0 2.1%
2014 $500.0 2.0%
2015 $507.5 1.5%
2016 $507.5 0.0%
2017 $535.0 5.4%
2018 $545.0 1.9%
2019 $555.0 1.8%
2020 $563.5 1.5%
2021 $570.5 1.2%
2022 $700.0 22.7%
2023 $720.0 2.9%
2024 $740.0 2.8%
2025 $760.0 2.7%
2026 $780.0 2.6%

Additionally, via The Score’s Travis Sawchik, players on 40-man rosters will see increases in their Triple-A salaries.

Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool

The amount of the pool for 2022 is $50 million and will remain flat over the life of the CBA, per The New York Times‘ James Wagner. Via Sawchik, the pool will cover 100 players (roughly the top 20% of pre-arb players). Via Stark, here’s how some of the money will be distributed:

Presumably, he meant $500,000 for second place in Rookie of the Year voting. Stark subsequently noted that a player can receive only one bonus , and that it would be the largest one for which he qualifies.

As for the WAR aspect, the specific metric or blend of metrics on “awards and WAR, the WAR metric or blend that “will be decided upon by a committee at a later date” according to Sawchik. As of earlier this week, 1/30th of the bonus pool amount (now $1.67 million) will count toward each team’s Competitive Balance Tax threshold.

Service Time

The top two Rookie of Year vote-getters in each league will now receive a full year of service time if they were brought up later in the season. A team adding a prospect to its Opening Day roster, meanwhile, will be eligible to receive draft picks if the player finishes in the top three in the Rookie of the Year voting or top five in the MVP or Cy Young voting.

Competitive Balance Tax

The CBT threshold will be $230 million in 2022, up from $210 million last year, a 9.5% jump; in terms of total dollars, it’s the largest jump in the history of the tax. The threshold will increase to $244 million by 2026, a gain of 16.2% over the five-year term. By comparison, it increased by 11.1% over the previous five years of the CBA.

Competitive Balance Tax Thresholds
Year Threshold ($Mil) Annual Change
2012 $178 0.0%
2013 $178 0.0%
2014 $189 6.2%
2015 $189 0.0%
2016 $189 0.0%
2017 $195 3.2%
2018 $197 1.0%
2019 $206 4.6%
2020 $208 1.0%
2021 $210 1.0%
2022 $230 9.5%
2023 $233 1.3%
2024 $237 1.7%
2025 $241 1.7%
2026 $244 1.2%

In addition to the surcharges on teams that go at least $20 million over the threshold and those that go at least $40 million over, there will now be a third surcharge for teams that go at least $60 million over — the so-called Cohen Balance Tax aimed at the Mets’ owner, the game’s wealthiest. The exact tax rates are unclear at this writing, but at last report, both sides had proposed the same rates as in the previous CBA, and as Drellich reported, the non-monetary penalties for big-spending teams will remain:

Competitive Balance Tax Penalties
Amount Payroll Exceeds Base Tax Threshold ($M) 1st-Time 2nd-Time 3rd-Time+ Draft
2017-21
<$20M (Base Tax Rate) 20% 30% 50%
$20M-$40M (Base Tax + 1st Surcharge Rate) 32% 42% 62%
$40M-$60M (Base Tax + 2nd Surcharge Rate) 62.5% 75% 95% (1)
2022-26
<$20M (Base Tax Rate) 20% 30% 50%
$20M-$40M (Base Tax + 1st Surcharge Rate) 32% 42% 62%
$40M-$60M (Base Tax + 2nd Surcharge Rate) 62.5% 75% 95% (1)
> $60M (Base Tax + 3rd Surcharge Rate) 80% 90% 105% ?
(1) = for payrolls at least $40M above threshold, team’s highest pick dropped 10 places unless the pick was among the top six; in that case, team’s second-highest pick dropped 10 places.

Rule Changes

As has been previously reported, the National League will adopt the designated hitter. Another tweak for 2022: Teams can only option a player to the minors five times in a single season.

Additionally, the players have agreed to a 45-day window to implement any new rules starting in 2023, subject to approval by a competition committee consisting of four active players, six league representatives, and one umpire. Via MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, potential changes include “a pitch clock, base size, defensive positioning and automatic ball/strike zone,” the last of which hadn’t previously been mentioned as a 2023 possibility, though the ABS system will be tested in Triple-A this year.

Rule 4 Draft

The new deal includes a draft lottery involving the top six picks to discourage tanking in addition to the aforementioned draft pick inducements designed to discourage service time manipulation. The 18 non-playoff teams will enter a lottery for the top six picks, with the three worst teams having equal odds for getting the top pick. Via MLB.com’s Jim Callis:

The amateur draft itself will be 20 rounds; after the first, teams will pick in reverse order of winning percentage, with playoff clubs picking in reverse order of finish. Within those groups (such as Wild Card Series losers), teams will be sorted by revenue-sharing status and reverse order of winning percentage according to Callis. Additionally, a form of the draft-and-follow system will return.

Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 draft that was scheduled to take place at this offseason’s Winter Meetings back in December has been canceled.

Other Stuff

Player uniforms will now feature advertising, with patches on jerseys and decals on batting helmets (ugh). As part of the new CBA, there will be a minor adjustment to the revenue sharing program, with the A’s phased back into receiving money; additionally, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that MLB will use some of the CBT proceeds to reward teams that increase their local revenues. The MLBPA also agreed to drop a grievance filed in 2020 regarding the restart of the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, though a revenue-sharing grievance from earlier — one filed against the Marlins, Pirates, A’s and Rays back in 2018 — remains.

Also forthcoming is a change to the schedule that will involve more interleague play, at the expense of divisional play:

While some people may favor a more balanced schedule, the general problem with reducing divisional play is that it increases the travel demands upon players. If the Yankees are playing their AL East rivals less often, they’re traveling to the West Coast more often, which may have some benefits in terms of the nationwide marketing of star players but also some drawbacks in terms of more time on airplanes and dealing with jet lag.

Within the new CBA, there’s also this:

The players gain some kind of stake in the sport’s gambling windfall, though the optics of players endorsing betting — for which they themselves would draw lifetime suspensions if they actually partook — aren’t good.

Via WCVB’s Duke Castiglione, under the new CBA, unvaccinated players will not receive pay or service time for games missed in Canada due to federal rules. On January 15, Canada revoked a travel exemption that had allowed unvaccinated professional and amateur athletes to enter the country, a situation that has already come to bear in basketball and other sports.

While this CBA is not the radical reshaping of the landscape that the union hoped for, with earlier free agency and arbitration, it clearly accomplishes one of the players’ main goals by significantly increasing the pay for younger players. It substantially raises the CBT thresholds, with a larger first-year jump and more consistent year-to-year growth relative to the previous two CBAs. It implements measures against tanking and service-time manipulation, though how successful those will be remains to be seen. It offers a route to eliminating draft-pick compensation, though whether that ends up outweighing the impact of an international draft also remains to be seen; likewise as far as whether such a draft helps to clean up a system rife with corruption, coercion, exploitation and PED use. After losing considerable ground in the previous two CBAs, the players weren’t going to regain everything in one fell swoop, but they took steps in the right direction.

“Our union endured the second-longest work stoppage in its history to achieve significant progress in key areas that will improve not just current players’ rights and benefits, but those of generations to come,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said via a statement.

On the other side of the ledger, the owners preserved a basic structure that’s working to their advantage, keeping free agency at six years and not expanding the size of the player pool that’s eligible for arbitration. The owners will increase their revenues via a larger postseason field and on-uniform advertising, and will gain a new level for taxing the top-spending teams. Potentially, they will also gain a new means of controlling international spending, though limits on that had already been in place.

The owners’ lockout and the league’s 43-day delay in offering a single proposal to the union galvanized the players and pushed the season to the brink of being shortened for the second time in three years. This has not been a pretty process at all, nor a fun one to cover even from a distance (hats off to those who had to stake out the proceedings), though at least there was less noxious cross-talk and negotiation through the media than in 2020. The fact that, after all of this, we can still look forward to 162 games and some semblance of normalcy is a great relief to everyone who makes their livelihoods off of baseball. While we await the floodgates opening on what promises to be a wild rush of free-agent signings and other transactions, let’s hope that the changes both sides fought for make for a healthier game, and that both sides can shift to focus upon improving the on-field product as well.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.

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cowdisciplemember
8 months ago

Huzzah!