Tuesday brought official word that Major League Baseball's players and owners had reached a new five-year labor agreement, just as the old CBA was set to expire. At no point were fears entertained that the sides might reach an impasse - an agreement was always going to happen - but it was just nice to hear about and get out of the way. There will be at least five more guaranteed years of strike-free baseball. All right.
The new CBA, however, is not identical to the old CBA. Far from it. There is change afoot. What kind of change? Wendy Thurm already tackled the biggest issues, and you should absolutely read her piece if you haven't already. What's presented below is an overview of everything. Or at least, everything we know about so far. We'll leave the editorializing up to you.
The new CBA will expire on December 1, 2016.
IMPORTANT SCHEDULING, REALIGNMENT, AND ROSTER CONCERNS
- The Houston Astros will move to the AL West prior to the 2013 season, necessitating season-round interleague play.
- For some doubleheaders, the active roster size will be bumped from 25 to 26.
- A second wild card will be instituted in each league, beginning either in 2012 or 2013. A decision on the timetable will be made by March 1, 2012. In this system, the two wild cards in each league will play a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to the Division Series, in which the winner will play the team with the best record in the league, even if that team is in the same division.
- Minor-league free agents who don't break camp with the team or who aren't released five days before opening day will receive a $100,000 bonus, and a June 1 opt-out clause.
- The Elias free-agent rankings system is dead. Free-agent compensation is not. In order for a team to receive compensation for losing a free agent, that free agent must have played with the team all season. After the year, the team must offer the free agent a one-year contract worth the average of the 125 highest salaries. If that free agent signs with another team, the other team will give up its first-round pick, unless it picks in the top ten, in which case it will give up its second-round pick. The original team will also gain a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. In the event that there are multiple such picks, the teams will draft in reverse order of winning percentage.
- That all begins next offseason. This offseason will be something of a compromise between the old system and the new one.
IMPORTANT FREE-AGENCY CONCERNS
IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL FREE-AGENCY CONCERNS
- For the next international free-agent signing period, all teams will be given the same amount of money to spend on talent. In subsequent international free-agent signing periods, that amount of money will be determined by reverse order of winning percentage, such that the worst teams can spend more money than the best teams. This amount of money is referred to as the Signing Bonus Pool, and teams may trade portions of it to other teams.
- There will be penalties for teams exceeding their Signing Bonus Pools, of increasing severity. These penalties include taxes, and restrictions on how much the violating team can offer an international free agent in the next signing period.
- All international free agents have to register with the Scouting Bureau, and the top 100 prospects will be subject to drug tests.
- A committee will be put in place to help international players pursue work or education once their baseball careers are over.
IMPORTANT SALARY CONCERNS
- The top 22 percent, in terms of service time, of players with more than two but less than three years of service, will be eligible for arbitration as Super 2s.
- The minimum salary will rise from $414,000 in 2011 to $480,000 in 2012, with further increases in following years.
- The minor-league minimum salary for players on 40-man rosters will rise from $67,300 in 2011 to $78,250 in 2012, with further increases in following years.
IMPORTANT AMATEUR DRAFT CONCERNS
- The signing deadline for draft picks is moving up to July 12 - July 18, depending on when MLB's All-Star Game is played. Additionally, draft picks may sign only minor-league contracts, instead of minor- or major-league contracts.
- As with international free agency, teams in the amateur draft will operate with given Signing Bonus Pools. Every pick in the first ten rounds is given a certain value, and those values will be added together to find each team's available amount of money. Any bonus larger than $100,000 will count against the Pool. This is something of a compromise between hard slotting - regulating each pick - and no slotting at all.
- As with international free agency, there will be penalties of increasing severity for teams that spend a greater amount of money than their Pool allows. A team might be taxed, or a team might be taxed and forced to give up one or more future draft picks of high value.
- Any tax money generated by the penalties will be given to the teams that didn't spend their entire Pools.
- Any draft picks forfeited according to the penalties will be awarded to other clubs, according to a formulate based on those clubs' revenues and winning percentages in the previous season.
- Prior to each draft, there will be a "Competitive Balance Lottery" that distributes six extra draft picks to teams with low revenues and/or low winning percentages in the previous season.
IMPORTANT REVENUE-SHARING AND COMPETITIVE-BALANCE (i.e. LUXURY-TAX) CONCERNS
- Revenue-sharing will remain essentially the same, except by 2016 there will be no revenues redistributed to the 15 teams in the largest markets.
- The Commissioner's discretionary (i.e. slush) fund will increase from $10 million to $15 million per season.
- The Competitive-Balance Tax (CBT) threshold will remain $178 million in 2012 and '13, then increase to $189 million from 2014 through '16. When a club (i.e. the Yankees) exceeds the threshold the first time, the tax is 17.5 percent; it increases to 30 percent the second time, 40 percent the third time, and 50 percent the fourth time or more (i.e. the Yankees).
IMPORTANT CONCERNS ABOUT NON-SALARY BENEFITS
- Major League Baseball players will continue to enjoy the best bennies on Earth.
IMPORTANT CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH, SAFETY, AND DISGUSTING HABITS
- Players may continue to chew and spit and occasionally swallow tobacco, but when fans are in the ballpark the players must be furtive when doing these things.
- Players who have acknowledged alcohol problems, or are arrested for crimes involving violence, are subject to mandatory evaluation.
- New players will be prohibited from using low-density maple bats.
- By 2013, all players will be required to use a new helmet, manufactured by Rawlings, that protects against 100-m.p.h. fastballs. These new helmets are "significantly less 'bulky' than prior versions of the more protective helmet."
IMPORTANT DRUG-TESTING CONCERNS
- Beginning next spring, every Major League Baseball player will be tested for Human Growth Hormone during spring training.
- All players will be subject to hGH testing at any point in the season if there is "reasonable cause".
- Beginning in the 2012-2013 off-season, all players will be subject to random testing during the off-season.
IMPORTANT CONCERNS ABOUT OTHER CONCERNS
- Players chosen for the All-Star Game must participate unless injured or given a note from the Commissioner.
- All players are subject to a new policy regarding the use of social media.
- Weekend waivers will be implemented in 2012.
- Video review will be implemented for use on fair/foul and "trapped" ball plays, subject to negotiation with the umpires' union.
- There will be an "improved" process for appealing the decisions of official scorers. This improved process might or might not include the use of Louisville Sluggers.
And there you have it. Please review these notes at least twice. There will be a quiz later.