Major League Baseball and its players agreed to an unprecedented early start to contract bargaining, a move sparked by union anger that raised the possibility of a return to work stoppages that marred the sport in the late 20th century.
MLB and the union announced modest rule changes Thursday, starting mainly in 2020, such as expanded rosters and a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and the commissioner’s office agreed to drop its push for pitch clocks until 2022 at the earliest.
Players have been upset about slow free-agent markets during the first two offseasons of the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1, 2021. The agreement increased the level of the luxury tax and prompted more teams to jettison older players in favor of rebuilding with youth. None of the previous 11 collective bargaining agreements dating to 1966 was overhauled in mid-agreement, except for limited areas defined by the sides when the deal was signed.
“It remains to be seen what the union’s going to ask for, what we’re going to ask for and whether we reach an agreement,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem said. “It’s a positive sign we were able to reach an agreement with the union on rule changes and hopefully, we can build on that.”
Ordinarily, the sides would have started negotiations in March 2021. The union proposed major economic changes this offseason that management refused to consider, such as expanding the designated hitter to the National League, addressing service-time rules that affect eligibility to free agency and salary arbitration. Also, adding provisions to the amateur draft that would make it harder to accumulate high draft picks over several seasons. As part of the deal on rule changes designed to speed the pace of play, management agreed to broader talks.
“I think the common ground that we were able to find here has cracked open a door to a broader conversion,” union head Tony Clark said. “And that broader conversion we believe is necessary and in the best interest of both parties. How things manifest themselves moving forward remains to be seen.”
Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972 through ’95 but has reached four straight deals without interrupting play. Although there is no deadline, as a practical matter, the sides would have to agree to major economic changes before free-agent negotiations start, on the sixth day following the World Series.
“Teams have the right to know what the rules are before they start making decisions regarding what their teams are going to look like,” Halem said.
Briefly: World Series MVP Steve Pearce ended an 0-for-12 spring training start with two homers as the Red Sox and Tigers tied 4-4. … Corey Seager played shortstop in a game for the first time since April 29, three innings for the Dodgers in a minor-league exhibition. The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year had surgery May 4 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and had arthroscopic surgery Aug, 7 to repair his left hip. He struck out twice.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/MLB-players-fuming-as-contract-bargaining-to-13690462.php.