At long last, baseball has returned. The owners and players have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement; the lockout has been lifted, thus allowing free agents to sign again; our favorite baseball chaps are headed to Scottsdale for Spring Training; and the San Francisco Giants first game is less than a month away.
For now, that’s about all that matters.
But the details of the agreement also matter, so let’s dive into some of the important information.
Some silly new rules are disappearing ...
I have yet to meet a single baseball fan who liked MLB’s short-lived experiment with expediting extra innings by giving teams a free runner on second base starting in the tenth inning (side note: what is the record for most “ex” words in a single sentence?). I’ve also yet to meet a fan that enjoyed having doubleheaders be just seven innings.
Thankfully both of those things are gone. Hopefully forever.
... but some silly new rules are just beginning
We’ve known for a long time that the universal designated hitter is coming and ... well ... here it is. I despise this, but I also recognize that there’s no one in particular to get mad at. The owners wanted it, as it means more offense, and offense sells. The players wanted it, because they think it will increase pay for players.
Everyone wanted it. Except us. So it became an inevitability.
The groundwork is set for more rule changes
There’s been a lot of talk that the league has increased base sizes and banned the shift starting in 2023. That’s not actually the case, but the league did create a 45-day window to implement new rules for next year, and those two have been mentioned.
No Rule 5 Draft this year
The MLB Rule 5 Draft was supposed to take place in early December, but was put on hold due to the lockout. The Minor League portion of the draft still occurred, but no one knew if the Major League portion would.
It may have been reported elsewhere already, but my understanding is the Rule 5 draft has been canceled for this year.— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) March 10, 2022
The draft will return next offseason, but the league is passing on it this year. That’s a win for the Giants, who left some notable prospects — such as Diego Rincones, Ricardo Genovés, Seth Corry, and David Villar — unprotected.
Voting was not unanimous by the players
While the owners voted 30-0 to sign the new contract, the players were a little bit more split. They had 38 voters — one player representing each team, plus the eight members of the executive subcommittee — and voted 26-12 in favor. The dissenting votes came from the player reps for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, and Houston Astros, plus all eight members of the executive subcommittee (Zack Britton, Jason Castro, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Lindor, Andrew Miller, James Paxton, Max Scherzer, and Marcus Semien).
A few things to note here. The Giants, who are represented by outfielder Austin Slater, were one of the 26 teams to vote in favor of the contract. The executive subcommittee voting against the contract suggests that the rank and file wanted to get back on the field rather than fight for a slightly stronger contract, though it’s not that simple. Five of the eight subcommittee members are represented by uber-agent Scott Boras, so the upper-echelon competitive balance tax penalties may have really rubbed them the wrong way. The subcommittee also was likely to want to stand together, so an 8-0 vote really could have meant just a 5-3 vote.
A draft lottery
This probably won’t actually make too much of a difference, but in an effort to limit tanking, there will now be a six-team draft lottery, rather have the draft order based solely on record.
Again: probably not going to change much, but every little bit helps.
Efforts to avoid service time manipulation
It’s no secret that service time manipulation is a rampant issue in baseball. It’s going to continue to be such, but some measures in the new agreement will help limit it.
In a released statement, the Players Association noted that there will be “draft pick incentives for Clubs who promote top prospects and avoid service time manipulation.” It’s unclear how that will be decided, but it’s a good first step.
Furthermore, there will also be a limit on how many times a player can be optioned in a given season (five), which has never been the case in the past. And there’s an added wrinkle for rookies: players who finish in the top two in Rookie of the Year voting will automatically accrue a year of service, regardless of time spent on the roster.
Playoffs have been expanding and expanding and expanding, and that’s the case in this agreement. On the bright side, the players were able to avoid the 14-team postseason field that the league wanted — but it will still be a 12-team field, which is a bit too big for most people’s liking.
More sponsorship opportunities
It’s no secret that gambling sponsorships are one of the biggest things in sports right now, and in the new agreement players will be eligible to pursue endorsement opportunities with gambling companies.
One interesting part of negotiations: players now have expanded rights to engage in promotional & endorsement activities with sports betting companies. Was very restricted before, now loosened up. Sports betting before was a matter of league policy—now, been decided by both sides— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 10, 2022
Jersey and helmet advertisements will also be permitted, which will be a bit of an eyesore, but will generate more revenue. This is probably a bigger win for the owners than for the players, but the Players Association is selling it as an increased revenue stream, so they should see some of the money.
A new schedule
The 2022 schedule will remain as is, with the canceled games getting filled in as doubleheaders and with a few extra days at the end of the season. But the plan is to dramatically alter the schedule in 2023, with teams playing fewer games within the division, and playing all 15 teams in the opposing league, as opposed to just five.
And of course, money
The biggest sticking point is always money. And while the Players Association wasn’t able to get as much as they would have ideally liked, there’s some significant growth in that area.
Some final details of a CBA where players made some notable gains:— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 10, 2022
• Pre-arb bonus pool at $50m
• Min salary: $700k, $720k, 740k, $760k, $780k
• CBT: $230m-$244m
• Draft lottery at 6 picks
• Universal DH
• Amateur draft is 20 rounds
• Player can be optioned 5 times per yr
Baseball, friends. Giants baseball. Coming to a baseball field and a TV near you, very soon.