MLB, players agree to new labor deal; full 162-game season starts April 7

Locked out players may soon be able to return to their spring training sites for pre-season baseball. (Steve Nesius/AP) By KRISTIE ACKERT

TAMPA — Baseball is back to business.

After a 99-day lockout and contentious negotiations that included the commissioner twice announcing the cancellation of games, the owners and players came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement Thursday afternoon.

That salvaged the entire 162-game season and put baseball on track to open the season April 7. After the second longest work stoppage in baseball history, which meant no contact between team personnel and players, the spring training complexes will be opened as soon as Friday morning with the mandatory report date on Sunday.

The Yankees were originally scheduled to have their home opener on April 7, hosting the Red Sox. They will have to make up the two road trips they were originally scheduled to start the season with in Houston and Dallas.

With the owners expected to ratify the agreement in a 6 p.m. conference call, free agency and trading will begin immediately. The Yankees, who made one major league signing (left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez) before the owners voted to shut down baseball, have several needs to address. Top of that list is a shortstop and starting pitching.

A frenzied free-agent period is expected with shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Trevor Story and others still available. The Yankees have been linked to Story, Freeman and also to a possible trade for A’s first baseman Matt Olson.

With the competitive balance tax threshold increasing to $230 million, the Yankees have some room to work with. Spotrac estimated the Bombers’ Opening Day payroll at just over $211 million.

“The deal pushes the game forward,” Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, a member of the union’s executive subcommitee told The Associated Press. “It addresses a lot of the things that the players in the game should be focused on: the competitive integrity aspect of it.”

Still, it wasn’t easy to get to a deal. In fact, Cole and the entire executive subcommittee voted against it. The Yankees and Mets were two of four teams that voted against the agreement, sources confirmed to the Daily News.

After voting unanimously to lock the players out when the last CBA expired on Dec. 1, because the owners wanted to create some urgency in negotiations, the league waited 43 days before engaging the union in real talks. When asked about the delay, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said, “phones work two ways.”

The union got the owners to raise the luxury tax threshold from $210M last year to $230M this season to $244M over the course of the five-year deal. They got owners to contribute to a $50M pool that will be distributed to elite, young players who are not eligible for arbitration. They also got the minimum salary raised from $570,500 to $700,000 this season, escalating to $780,000 over the course of the agreement. They got a draft lottery implemented to fight against teams tanking, draft-pick incentives to try and prevent service-time manipulation and also a limit on the number times a player can be optioned to the minor leagues in one season without being exposed to waivers (five).

The owners got an extra luxury tax level to try and control owners from blowing past the threshold by more than $60M. They also got an expanded playoff field of 12 teams (two less than they asked for), advertising on uniforms and batting helmets and the universal designated hitter.

The negotiations were frustrating for fans as they seemed to get close twice before only to have it fall apart. On Wednesday night, it was one of those low points. After issuing an ultimatum, Manfred canceled games because the players’ counter offer came after 6 p.m.

The dispute was over MLB insisting on an international draft, which had been a non-starter for the union from the beginning. With several Latin stars speaking out against the draft, the sides could not reach an understanding on it until Thursday morning.

They have until July 25 to reach a deal on an international draft that would start in 2024, according to ESPN. If a deal is reached, the qualifying offer will vanish. If no deal, the qualifying offer will return.