La­bor peace again in base­ball

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins and Ron­ald Blum

Base­ball play­ers and own­ers reached a ten­ta­tive agree­ment on a five-year la­bor con­tract Wed­nes­day night, a deal that will ex­tend 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-the­clock talks, ne­go­tia­tors reached a ver­bal agree­ment about 3 ½ hours be­fore the ex­pi­ra­tion of the cur­rent pact. A few hours later they signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing, which must be rat­i­fied by both sides.

“It’s great! An­other five years of un­in­ter­rupted base­ball,” Oak­land catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text mes­sage.

In an­nounc­ing the agree­ment, Ma­jor League Base­ball and the

play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion said they will make spe­cific terms avail­able when draft­ing is com­plete.

“Happy it’s done, and base­ball is back on,” Los An­ge­les Dodgers pitcher Bran­don McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the ex­per­i­ment of hav­ing the All-Star Game de­ter­mine which league gets home­field ad­van­tage in the World Se­ries will end af­ter 14 years, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the agree­ment told The As­so­ci­ated Press. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the deal had not yet been signed.

In­stead, the pen­nant win­ner with the bet­ter reg­u­lar-sea­son record will open the Se­ries at home.

An­other im­por­tant change: The min­i­mum time for a stint on the dis­abled list will be re­duced from 15 days to 10.

The lux­ury tax thresh­old rises from $189 mil­lion to $195 mil­lion next year, $197 mil­lion in 2018, $206 mil­lion in 2019, $209 mil­lion in 2020

and $210 mil­lion in 2021.

Tax rates in­crease from 17.5 per­cent to 20 per­cent for first of­fend­ers, re­main at 30 per­cent for sec­ond of­fend­ers and rise from 40 per­cent to 50 per­cent for third of­fend­ers. There is a new sur­tax of 12 per­cent for teams $20 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion above the thresh­old, 42.5 per­cent for first of­fend­ers more than $40 mil­lion above the thresh­old and 45 per­cent for sub­se­quent of­fend­ers more than $40 mil­lion above. And spe­cial tran­si­tion rates will be used for 2017.

Union head Tony Clark, pre­sid­ing over a ne­go­ti­a­tion for the first time, said in a state­ment the deal “will ben­e­fit all in­volved in the game and leaves the game bet­ter for those who fol­low.”

Key changes in­volve the qual­i­fy­ing of­fers clubs can make to their for­mer play­ers af­ter they be­come free agents — the fig­ure was $17.2 mil­lion this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs else­where, his new team for­feits an am­a­teur draft pick, which usu­ally had been in the first round un­der the old deal.

Un­der the new rules, a player can re­ceive a qual­i­fy­ing

offer only once in his ca­reer and will have 10 days to con­sider it in­stead of seven. A club sign­ing a player who de­clined a qual­i­fy­ing offer would lose its third-high­est am­a­teur draft pick if it is a rev­enue-shar­ing re­ceiver, its sec­ond- and fifth-high­est picks (plus a loss of $1 mil­lion in its in­ter­na­tional draft pool) if it pays lux­ury tax for the just-ended sea­son, and its sec­ond-high­est pick (plus $500,000 in the in­ter­na­tional draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club los­ing a free agent who passed up a qual­i­fy­ing offer would re­ceive an ex­tra se­lec­tion af­ter the first round of the next draft if the player signed a con­tract for $50 mil­lion or more and af­ter com­pet­i­tive bal­ance round B if un­der $50 mil­lion. How­ever, if that team pays lux­ury tax, the ex­tra draft pick would drop to af­ter the fourth round. Among other details: —For a team $40 mil­lion or more in ex­cess of the lux­ury tax thresh­old, its high­est se­lec­tion in the next am­a­teur draft will drop 10 places start­ing in 2018.

—While man­age­ment failed to ob­tain an in­ter­na­tional draft of am­a­teurs

re­sid­ing out­side the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team’s an­nual bonus pool for those play­ers start­ing at $4.75 mil­lion for the sign­ing pe­riod that be­gins next July 2. The pool rises to $5.25 mil­lion for teams with com­pet­i­tive bal­ance round A draft picks and $5.75 mil­lion for clubs with round B selections.

—There is no change to lim­its on ac­tive ros­ters, which re­main at 25 for most of the sea­son and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

—Smoke­less tobacco will be banned for all new play­ers, those who cur­rently do not have at least one day of ma­jor league ser­vice.

—The reg­u­lar sea­son will ex­pand from 183 days to 187 start­ing in 2018, cre­at­ing four more sched­uled off days. There are ad­di­tional lim­i­ta­tions on the start times of night games on get­away days.

—The min­i­mum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with costof-liv­ing in­creases the fol­low­ing two years; the mi­nor league min­i­mum for a player ap­pear­ing on the 40man

ros­ter for at least the sec­ond time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, fol­lowed by cost-of-liv­ing raises.

—The drop-off in slot val­ues in the first round of the am­a­teur draft will be less­ened.

—Oak­land’s rev­enue­shar­ing funds will be cut to 75 per­cent next year, 50 per­cent in 2018, 25 per­cent in 2019 and then phased out.

—Cubans un­der 25 will be con­sid­ered am­a­teurs, up from 23.

—Each team must hire a chef for its play­ers.

—Ev­ery player must be pro­vided two bus seats dur­ing spring train­ing bus trips.

—As part of the drug agree­ment, there will be in­creased test­ing, play­ers will not be cred­ited with ma­jor league ser­vice time dur­ing sus­pen­sions, and biomarker test­ing for HGH will be­gin next year.

Ne­go­tia­tors met through most of Tues­day night in an ef­fort to in­crease mo­men­tum in the talks, which be­gan dur­ing spring train­ing. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agree­ment be­fore the

old con­tract ex­pired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in ad­vance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of ex­pi­ra­tion in 2011.

Talks took place at a ho­tel out­side Dal­las where the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion held its an­nual ex­ec­u­tive board meet­ing.

Clark, the first for­mer player to serve as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the union, and oth­ers set up in a meet­ing room within earshot of a chil­dren’s choir prac­tic­ing Christ­mas car­ols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Base­ball had eight work stop­pages from 1972-95, the last a 7 ½-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first can­cel­la­tion of the World Se­ries in 90 years. The 2002 agree­ment was reached af­ter play­ers au­tho­rized a strike and about 3 ½ hours be­fore the first game that would have been im­pacted by a walk­out.

The peace in base­ball is in con­trast to the re­cent la­bor his­to­ries of other ma­jor sports. The NFL had a pre­sea­son lock­out in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lock­out that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lock­out in 2012-13.

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