Peace & glove: Owners, players reach CBA deal

New agreement includes change to home-field advantage in World Series

December 1st, 2016

IRVING, Texas -- Major League Baseball's players and owners reached a tentative five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement through the 2021 season on Wednesday night. The parties will follow up today with a formal document, which then must be ratified by representatives of both sides. 

At 8:40 p.m. ET, an assortment of happy players, owners, lawyers and staffers poured from meeting rooms to exchange handshakes and hugs. That's how quickly 36 hours of round-the-clock negotiations ended, nearly four hours before today's deadline of 12:01 a.m. ET to reach a deal. Short of an agreement, the sport was faced with the best-case scenario of an extension or owners could have imposed a lockout.

Players and owners negotiated until 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, took a few hours off, then went back to the bargaining table. Suddenly, negotiations that had moved with a crawl for months picked up intensity as the end of the current agreement approached.

Both parties are expected to speak at a news conference when the deal is formally announced.

Baseball has enjoyed 21 years of labor peace, during which time the sport has had astronomical growth in attendance, revenues and competitive balance. The new agreement means there will be no work stoppage for more than a quarter of a century.

The immediate impact is that free-agent negotiations and trade talks continue without any specter of interruption.

Most of the changes were regarding issues that had been discussed for weeks, but one surprising twist is that home-field advantage in the World Series will no longer be tied to the All-Star Game, as first reported by The Associated Press. Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will get home-field advantage in the Fall Classic.

In the end, this new agreement looks a lot like the one that was set to expire. However, there are changes to the luxury-tax threshold, international bonus pools and Draft-pick compensation, among other things.

Here's a breakdown based on unofficial word, and details will be clarified when terms of the agreement are announced:

Free-agent compensation

Qualifying offers -- which will still be calculated based on the average of the top 125 salaries -- can still be extended to free agents, but no more than once per player in his career. A player must still be on his club for the entire season to receive a qualifying offer.

Beginning in the 2017-18 offseason, teams signing a free agent who received a qualifying offer will no longer give up a first-round pick. Under the old system, any team not picking in the top 10 forfeited its first pick for signing one of those free agents, and the team losing that free agent would get a compensation pick at the end of the first round.

In the new agreement, teams will still get a pick for losing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer, but most of those will be sandwich picks coming after the competitive balance selections following the second round. There are some caveats: If a team from the 15 smallest markets that gets revenue-sharing money loses a free agent who signs for $50 million or more, it will get a pick at the end of the first round. If a team losing such a player is over the new luxury-tax threshold (see below), the compensation pick will come after the fourth round has been completed.

If a qualifying-offer free agent signs for less than $50 million, his previous team will get a compensation pick after the second round as long as it is not over the luxury-tax threshold. If the team is over the threshold, it will get a pick after Round 4.

There are also new rules governing the forfeiture of picks for signing a qualifying-offer free agent.

If a team over the threshold signs such a player, it will forfeit its second- and fifth-highest picks, along with $1 million in international pool money. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing money and signs a qualifying-offer free agent will give up its third pick. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth pick. If any other team inks one of those premium free agents, it will forfeit its second pick and $500,000 in international pool money. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third pick.

One important note regarding teams losing picks: Competitive Balance Round picks are exempt from forfeiture.

Luxury tax threshold

Incremental increases from the current $189 million of 2014-16 to:

2017: $195 million

2018: $197 million

2019: $206 million

2020: $209 million

2021: $210 million

Tax rates for teams exceeding the threshold will rise from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first-time instances, remain at 30 percent for second instances and increase from 40 to 50 percent for third-time instances.

There's a new 12 percent surtax for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 40 percent for first instances more than $40 million above the threshold and 42.5 percent for teams $40 million above the threshold a second time, according to The Associated Press.

International Draft

Rather than an international Draft, which owners had sought, the two sides agreed to a bonus pool system, with a hard cap on how much each team can spend. That pool is expected to be $5 million to $6 million per team. Under the previous CBA, the bonus pools were scaled based on record the previous year, with the worst teams getting a little more than $5 million and the club with the best record getting a bonus pool in the $2 million range. It was also a "soft" cap, meaning teams could exceed it, but had to pay penalties for doing so.

Cuban-born players who are at least 25 years old, with six-plus years of experience in Serie Nacional, will maintain exemption from the international bonus pool, according to's Jon Paul Morosi.

Roster size

No change. Teams will have 25-man rosters for the regular season, expanding to 40 in September. An expansion to 26-man rosters for April through August had been discussed in exchange for a smaller roster expansion in September, but that did not materialize.

Disabled list

The minimum time for a trip to the DL will be reduced from 15 days to 10, according to The Associated Press.

Other items of note

• Beginning in 2018, the regular season will begin in mid-week to create additional off-days during the schedule.

• According to the New York Post, incoming Major Leaguers will be banned from using smokeless tobacco, but current players will be "grandfathered in" and still be permitted.