Baseball Is Back: MLB Season Saved, Details of the New CBA Deal

by Chris Haney

After a three-month lockout and concerns over the possibility of a canceled 2022 season, Major League Baseball is back. On Thursday, baseball fans across the nation rejoiced as the league and the MLB Players Association announced that they’ve agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The season looked dangerously close to being canceled after the league first postponed spring training. Then, MLB officials pushed back Opening Day before canceling the first week of regular season games. Reports circulated on Wednesday that the league was gearing up to cancel the second week of the season as well. However, MLB and MLBPA representatives have struck a deal that will now keep the full 162-game season intact as baseball returns on April 7.

What You Need To Know

  • MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement on a new CBA deal, which saves the 2022 season.
  • Players can voluntarily report for spring training as of today, mandatory camps begin on Sunday.
  • Spring training games will start next week on Friday, March 18.
  • Opening Day has now only been delayed by one week, which kicks off on April 7.
  • There will be a few major changes to baseball, including universal designated hitters.

2022 MLB Season Officially Underway As Teams Report After New CBA Deal

In December 2021, owners initiated a lockout as the previous CBA expired. It was the first work stoppage in baseball since 1995, which damaged the game and attendance for years. MLB and its commissioner Rob Manfred were playing with fire once again as no deal seemed to be on the horizon that would save the 2022 season. However, after months of tense negotiations, ownership and the MLBPA finally found a deal that worked for everyone.

“I am genuinely thrilled to be able to say that Major League Baseball is back and we’re going to play 162 games. I do want to start by apologizing to our fans. … Looking forward, I could not be more excited about the future of our game,” Manfred said on Thursday.

The remainder of the 2021-22 offseason is officially underway as teams look to sign free agents and reshape their roster. Spring training should have started last month in February. Considering everyone assumed the MLB preseason could be canceled altogether, it’s a huge relief to teams that players can voluntarily report to camps as early as today, March 11. Later this weekend, on Sunday, players will mandatorily report to spring training. One week from today, on March 18, the first slate of preseason games will begin.

Since the MLB and MLBPA reached a new CBA deal, Opening Day will only be delayed by one week now. Originally, the regular season was scheduled to start on March 31. Instead, baseball fans will return to ballparks across the country as Opening Day now kicks off on April 7. The league will play a handful of 9-inning doubleheaders to make up for the delayed week of baseball. Yet MLB officials have already confirmed that every team will play their full 162-game schedule.

Breaking Down the Contractual Details Of the New CBA Deal

Of course, there’s numerous details to go over when it comes to the new CBA deal. There’s plenty of contractual changes, but there’s also some fundamental changes to the game that fans will want to know about. First, the differences between the new agreement compared to the last CBA. MLB executive reporter Mark Feinsand tweeted out specifics of the deal on Thursday afternoon.

During negotiations, the MLBPA put an emphasis on ensuring that younger players would be taken care of in the future. One of the key requests from players involved a pre-arbitration bonus pool for young stars. In simple terms, the new CBA deal allows young players to bypass arbitration. Therefore elite prospects can renegotiate their contracts earlier than before and cash in if they’re outplaying their contracts. In addition, the league has increased minimum salaries to $700,000, and that number will increase $20,000 each year. That means pre-arbitration players will make an extra $115 million in 2022.

Meanwhile, the new competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold has a 9% increase compared to 2021. The last CBA provided only a 1% hike over the previous CBT threshold. Big-spending clubs like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers will still be hit with overage penalties even though there is no hard salary cap in baseball. Yet the players have essentially raised MLB’s de facto salary cap with the new agreement.

All in all, the new CBA deal is the biggest win for the Players Association in years when it comes to collective bargaining negotiations. It’s a rarity that the owners budge from their bottom line, but this new CBA deal isn’t just a win for the MLBPA. It’s a win for everyone involved: the players, ownership, MLB fans, and for the sport in general.

Major Changes Coming To Baseball, Including Universal Designated Hitters

Baseball purists and National League fans that love to see pitchers hit might want to brace themselves here. As of the new CBA deal, pitchers will no longer step up to the plate in either league. After testing out the universal designated hitter in NL games during the pandemic, it will now officially be applied to all seasons.

Removing bats from pitchers’ hands won’t sit well with all fans, but it’s an inevitable adjustment to the game. No longer will pitchers bat ninth and be an easy out during NL games. Plus the move should add a little more action into games even if it takes some getting used to for some.

Additionally, the league is adding two more teams to the playoffs while also adopting an NBA-style draft lottery. The expanded playoff picture will now field 12 teams instead of the previous 10-team format. Bottom-end playoff teams also don’t have to worry about the one-and-done Wild Card game. All clubs that make the playoffs are now guaranteed at least two games instead of only one.

Some have reported that the 12-team playoff is simply a way for owners to compensate themselves for the money lost in negotiations to players in the new CBA deal. However, the move to increase the amount of teams in the playoffs was another inevitable change as it follows the trend in other major sports leagues that have done the same. While the new CBA is a win-win deal, at this point, everyone is just glad the 2022 baseball season is back on.