MLB players, owners to start labor talks 2 years early
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball and its players’ union reached an unprecedented agreement to discuss renegotiating their labor contract that has three seasons remaining, part of a deal that includes modest rule changes for 2020 and drops pitch clocks until 2022 at the earliest.
Players have been furious at slow free-agent markets during the first two offseasons of the five-year labor contract. The sides normally would start negotiations during spring training entering the agreement’s final year. Management and the union agreed to discuss a renegotiation and extension of the current deal, set to expire on Dec. 1, 2021.
The agreement announced Thursday eliminates all trades from July 31 through the end of the season starting this year, though players who clear outright waivers can still be claimed and will be eligible for the postseason if they are in the organization before Sept. 1.
Mound visits without pitching changes will be cut from six to five. MLB intends to cut half-inning breaks to 2 minutes this year, down from 2:05 for most games and 2:25 for nationally televised games.
Fan voting for the All-Star Game will be divided into two rounds, with the top three vote-getters advancing for all positions except the outfield, for which six will move on. The top three voter-getters at each position will receive bonuses, which will not count against a team’s luxury-tax payroll. Home Run Derby prize money will be increased to $2.5 million, including $1 million for the winner, up from the $725,000 total previous agreed to for 2019, of which $150,000 had been designated for the winner.
Starting in 2020, the active roster limit will increase by one to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31 and will drop from 40 to 28 through the end of the regular season. A joint player-management committee will determine the limit of pitchers. In addition, position players will be prohibited from pitching through the ninth inning unless the player’s team is winning or losing by six or more runs when he takes the mound.
The injured list and option recall minimum period for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15 in 2020, an effort to slow the use of relievers by teams who shuttle of pitchers between the majors and minors
In addition, starting in 2020 all pitchers must face at least three batters or end a half-inning, unless injured. While the union refused to agree to that provision, it also said it will not challenge it.
Players wanted to cut down on late-season trades in an effort to prevent teams from jettisoning veterans and becoming less competitive. However, the move might lead to more free-agents being subject to draft-pick compensation. A team can make a qualifying offer only to a free agent who had been on the club since opening day.