Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that extends the sport’s industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.
After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.
A week ago, our Ken Rosenthal reported that the possibility of failing to strike a deal was in play and threatened to impact the winter meetings as the two sides continued to negotiate. Had a deal not come, the owners would have considered voting for a lockout, Rosenthal reported.
As of then, there were a number of issues blocking a deal. The owners offered to resolve two of the biggest ones by offering a straight exchange, telling the players they would eliminate direct draft-pick compensation in free agency in exchange for the right to implement an international draft, sources said at the time. The players, however, rejected the proposal, wanting no part of an international draft. That issue, Rosenthal reported Tuesday, is still being worked out:
The competitive-balance tax — the amount of the threshold, the size of the penalties — was another point of contention. The two sides also were at odds over changes in the Joint Drug Agreement; a number of players spoke out in favor of a stronger program during the season, but for baseball to strengthen the agreement, the union wanted concessions in other areas, sources said. Rosenthal reported that the thresholds were set to rise in the new deal:
The owners’ proposal to end direct draft-pick compensation essentially would create unrestricted free agency in baseball for the first time. But the union strongly opposes an international draft, in part because foreign-born amateurs do not have the same leverage and opportunities as their U.S.-born counterparts, including college, sources said.
Under direct draft-pick compensation, a team loses a selection for signing a free agent who received a qualifying offer, which this year was valued at $17.2 million. Draft-pick compensation still would exist under the owners’ proposal, but only indirectly; a team that loses a qualified agent still would receive a bonus pick.
Major League Baseball hasn’t had a work stoppage since 1994-95.
More details on the agreement, from Rosenthal:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.