Shorter breaks, 1 trade deadline among rule changes agreed to by MLB, players
Major League Baseball and its players' union reached an unprecedented agreement Thursday to discuss renegotiating their labour contract that has three seasons remaining, part of a deal that includes modest rule changes for 2020 and drops pitch clocks until 2022 at the earliest.
Players have been furious at slow free-agent markets during the first two off-seasons of the five-year labour contract, set to expire Dec. 1, 2021. None of the previous 11 collective bargaining agreements dating to 1966 has been 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 off-season 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 teams less likely to jettison veterans in favour of rebuilding.
"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."
While 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.